The Rocket Science of Technology Procurement (Cadalyst Daily Archive)

3 Oct, 2006 By: Kenneth Wong

Inspector General chides NASA for failure to follow up on findings it procured PTC software without due process


Some people are unhappy with NASA's shopping habits -- and it seems they have legitimate grounds for grievance.p>

In a letter to the U.S. GAO (Government Accountability Office), dated November 8, 2005, NASA's Contract and Procurement Practice Group acknowledged the complaints filed in October 2005 by a pair of unsuccessful bidders: PLM developer UGS, and ESCgov, a resale channel partner for companies that provide IT products and services to the federal government. According to the letter, the plaintiffs alleged the space agency had "violated requirements to competitively procure its requirements by conducting what was, in effect, a sole source procurement. ..."

In its final memo on the matter, the NASA Office of Inspector General wrote, "The complaints allege that NASA is attempting to establish the MCAD and data management products of one vendor [PTC] as the de facto NASA standard without an agency-wide technical assessment. ... Our findings indicate that the allegations are credible. ... We have been unable to identify a basis ... for justifying [PTC] products as the NASA standard." (The memo and the letter, as well as an addendum, are filed at the Inspector General's Web site.)

On the surface, the whole affair might look like a high-tech love triangle: NASA decides to go steady with PTC; UGS is put off. But in fact, the incident demonstrates the complex politics behind technology acquisition transactions. It seems, at least in some cases, established relationships and processes deeply entrenched in a buyer's infrastructure might thwart frank discussions about the technological superiority or inferiority of proposed products.  Read more >>


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About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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