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GSA urged to modify its contract requirements for Web-based email

Oct. 18, 2011 - 06:13PM   |  
Steve Kempf is commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service.
Steve Kempf is commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. (Tom Brown / Staff file photo)

The Government Accountability Office on Monday called on the General Services Administration to modify its contract requirements for Web-based email services.

GAO sided with two vendors vying for the contract who argued GSA was too restrictive in telling vendors where their overseas data centers could be located.

GSA told vendors they could store government data in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, which have trade agreements with the U.S., but not in other countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa, which have no such trade agreements.

Ralph White, GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said in an email statement to Federal Times on Tuesday that "GSA had not provided any meaningful explanation of its decision to limit non-U.S. based cloud computing centers to Trade Agreement Act Designated Countries."

Technosource Information Systems of Annapolis, Md., and TrueTandem of Reston, Va., lodged the complaints with GAO in July, during the solicitation process. GSA has not yet awarded any spots on the contract.

GAO also sided with the companies' complaints that GSA did not clearly define how government data should be shared through certain network connections.

GAO called on GSA to amend the solicitation and reopen the competition.

"We are currently reviewing the GAO's recommendation that GSA clarify the requirements language in the two sustained protest grounds, and will be making a decision on a corrective action following a thorough review of the GAO's decision," said Steven Kempf, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. The agency has 60 days to respond to GAO's recommendations.

GSA said it had initially required that vendors store government data only within the U.S.

The Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Trade Representative's office, however, thought that was too restrictive and urged GSA to permit contractor data centers to be located in other countries.

GSA said it chose to restrict the list of countries to those having trade agreements with the U.S. because that would exclude certain countries it wanted to exclude, such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea and China.

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