ACES in the Hole: NASA’s Troubled Infrastructure Contract

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

A recent NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report has criticized the agency’s handling of its major end-user computing services contract, the Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) effort. The ACES contract is one of several efforts meant to consolidate NASA’s IT acquisitions, collectively known as NASA’s IT Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P). The OIG report has found that NASA lacked the institutional controls necessary to manage an enterprise IT initiative and calls in to question many of the other I3P contracts as well.

Two main reasons why NASA’s programs have been troubled include:

  1. NASA has previously been a very federated IT organization – that is, the IT purchasing was not under the centralized authority of the CIO at HQ, but rather based at each NASA center (or buried far within the requests of the Mission Directorates – more on this in a bit). Since the adoption of the I3P contracts, more reporting has had to be done from the center-level up to NASA HQ (and the NASA Shared Services Center where quite a bit of the program management of ACES is handled) and vice-versa. For the most part, however, centers lack the ability to comprehensively track the data needed to establish whether or not cost-savings is actually being realized – although NASA’s OIG report would suggest not.
  2. One of the challenges faced by NASA overall is that its IT budget isn’t very transparent – much of the funding is controlled by NASA’s Mission Directorates and embedded within the development of systems like satellites and propulsion systems. So while centers are supposed to use ACES to acquire a lot of the basic equipment to do the day-to-day activities associated with operations, that isn’t always the case – and the centers aren’t sure how often working around ACES occurs. Coupled with the fact that the ACES contract has had other issues – patch management, to name a substantial one – and much of this adds up to a troubled program that NASA is going to have to address in the coming year.

Join me for immixGroup’s FY14 NASA Briefing Webinar on Wednesday, February 26 at 11 a.m. I’ll help make some sense out of the convoluted IT spend of NASA at the center and Mission Directorate levels and talk about opportunities for vendors to help with the troubled I3P programs. Click here to register.

About Tomas O'Keefe
Tom O'Keefe has over 10 years of market research experience as an Analyst and Consultant in the federal space. He also earned an MA in Political Science from George Mason University. He has covered both civilian and defense agencies and has presented to clients ranging from junior-level associates to executives from some of the largest Systems Integrators and contractors in the federal marketplace.

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