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GSA awards geospatial services agreements to four firms

The General Services Administration announced on Thursday that it awarded a new blanket purchase agreement federal, state and local governments can use to buy geospatial software and services through its SmartBUY program.

Geospatial technology refers to a collection of software tools that allow agencies to perform complex tasks such as three-dimensional modeling or computer-aided design. It includes Web-based visualization tools to access images of any geographic area through commercial services such as Google Earth. Emergency response agencies can access data on national and international road networks and take advantage of geocoding to pinpoint longitude and latitude for any given location.

The SmartBUY program awarded the contracts at the request of the Geospatial Line of Business, which is chaired by the Interior Department. The estimated contract value is $20 million. Other agencies making up the Geospatial Line of Business include the Agriculture and Commerce departments, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Census Bureau and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Each of the agencies have demonstrated a need for geospatial tools to accomplish their missions.

All SmartBUY agreements use the GSA Schedules program as their base contract and then attempt to negotiate lower prices based on specific technical requirements. Lawrence Hale, director of the office of infrastructure optimization at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said his organization works with customers such as the Geospatial Line of Business to help them sift through the offerings on the schedules and negotiate lower prices for agencies that are looking to purchase in the near future.

"Instead of having dozens of tools in a given category on the schedule, the [blanket purchase agreement] allows us to have a technical evaluation and raise the bar on what standards will be acceptable," Hale said. "It narrows the field and helps agencies focus in on the best products and software packages that are most appropriate for the needs of the customers."

The geospatial agreement was awarded to four companies: Onix Networking Corp. in Westlake, Ohio, a reseller for commercial geospatial tools such as the commercial version of Google Earth; and Imager Software, Planet Associates Inc. and SAIC, all three of which have their own suites of geospatial tools.

Agencies can immediately begin placing orders for geospatial products and services through the GSA Advantage or eBuy systems.

Once a blanket purchase agreement has been negotiated between schedules vendors and SmartBUY, federal, state, local and tribal governments can purchase products through the agreement. The program tallied $222 million in business in fiscal 2009, at a cost savings of $195 million, compared with the prices on Schedule 70, on which technology equipment and services are sold, according to GSA.

"We have additional requirements and a tighter evaluation for these agreements" than for Schedule 70, Hale said. "There's a group of customers ready to buy and so there's an extra incentive for publishers to negotiate and offer more discounts. And even for the SmartBUY price, the customer can negotiate further discounts. It's common."

SmartBUY was identified as an IT spending priority in President Obama's fiscal 2010 budget, and the program has a numerous blanket purchase agreements for such services as database management, enterprise content management, information security and network management, Hale said.

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