GSA Issues Revised Cloud Email RFQ

The General Services Administration has issued a revised Request for Quotation for cloud email services after its first RFQ was shot down by the Government Accountability Office, Federal News Radio reported.

GAO struck down the original RFQ in October saying GSA hadn't given a reasonable explanation for why cloud-based servers holding agencies' email data could only be in countries designated under the 1979 Trade Agreements Act.

That list includes war-riddled nations and failed or failing states such as Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, vendors protesting the RFQ pointed out, but restricts some major tech havens, such as India, Brazil and South Africa.

The amended RFQ simply requires vendors to describe where all of their servers are located, but does not list any restricted nations, according to the Federal News Radio report.

GSA had wanted to prohibit storing any government data outside the United States but was told by the U.S. Trade Representative that position would violate numerous trade agreements, according to GAO. The two agencies settled on the TAA list as a compromise that saved GSA from developing a country-by-country analysis of where data could be stored and where it couldn't be, according to the decision.

The result, though, was an arbitrary list of approved nations that couldn't stand up to reasonable scrutiny, GAO said.

GSA issued the initial RFQ in May, which spurred several agencies to begin investigating transitioning their email systems to cloud computing.

The Obama administration's 25-point plan to reform federal IT management requires agencies to identify three services they will move to cloud computing by June 2012. Email has been a popular service for cloud transition because it is relatively uncomplicated and uniform.

The administration's Federal Cloud Computing Strategy, published in February, estimates about one-third of the government's $80 billion in annual IT spending is ripe for a move to the cloud.