According to this posting on FedBizOpps, GSA is giving Symplicity Corporation some funds “to acquire a pilot that will facilitate the need to support the efforts of the Recovery Act of 2009 and rebuild and possible deployment (sic) of a working pilot for Grants.gov using the FBO platform as a baseline.”
As I understand it, the “FBO platform” is Symplicity’s SympleObjects e‑Business Platform (see this page for more details on the platform, and this one for Symplicity’s announcement regarding winning the FBO contract). I mentioned this on Behind the Curtain last year (here) and documented the FBO team’s rapid response to the complaints I raised, here.
The GSA pilot was discussed at the June 9th NGP meeting (presentations and webcast recording available here (disclosure: TCG supports the NGP’s webcasts)). From what I recall, Interior and Energy are both involved in the pilot, to some degree or another, and the project really is intended as a pilot, not as a brand new system. Whether it might replace HHS’s current Grants.gov system is very much an open question.
My opinion? I worry whenever the government seems to back itself into a technical corner like this. The original Grants.gov implementation also did that (using proprietary technology that proved very difficult to mold into the correct shape), and a large degree of vendor lock-in was the result. And, despite suffering the pain of changing the vendor and implementing a significant redesign, vendor lock-in is still the result, although to a lesser degree.
Regardless, it’s encouraging to see new investment in a system to serve the needs of Federal grantees and grantors. Grants continue to comprise a significant part of the government budget — even more so with the Recovery Act — so the additional investment is warranted, necessary, and important.