NARA to suspend development of ERA starting in 2012

The agency is deciding whether or not to move forward with the contract option for operations and maintenance with Lockheed Martin. GAO and OMB say the project ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The National Archives and Records Administration is ending the development phase for the Electronic Records Archive system next September.

David Lake, ERA’s communications director, said as result of the Office of Management and Budget’s TechStat session, NARA and OMB decided to end this phase of the contract with Lockheed Martin earlier than expected to focus on getting agencies to use the current system’s functionalities before adding new ones.

“We are going to get this phase of development completed by the end of fiscal 2011,” said Chuck Piercy, NARA’s acting CIO. “OMB hasn’t dictated any contractual things we need to do. We’ve been working closely with Lockheed Martin and we have a large amount of work to accomplish in the next 11 months. We believe we will be able to get it done and achieve final operating capability with the ERA system and get all the cabinet level agencies using ERA by the end of calendar year 2011.”

NARA has a sixth option year on the Lockheed Martin deal for development, and seventh year for operations and maintenance.

“We have been directed by OMB to discontinue the development component at the end of fiscal year 2011,” Piercy said. “Originally, there was an additional one year option available to do development. This final option was for operation and maintenance. There were seven options total.”

Piercy added that NARA may choose to recompete the operation and maintenance portion of the contract, but the agency hasn’t decided how it will proceed.

“The decision to end is about a year earlier than originally planned,” said David Lake, communications director for ERA. “This is something through the TechStat process that OMB essentially mandated in 2011. We are following all those decisions. There are other parts of the TechStat process they asked us to go through like a program improvement plan. We continue to work with them and provide them with updates on the progress so far.”

Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Sheila Collins said the company is working closely with NARA in the final year of development for ERA functionality.

“Lockheed Martin will continue to work in close partnership with NARA as contracted to complete delivery of the ERA solution in a phased, five-increment system approach,” she said. “We are currently beginning development of the final System Increment, Increment 5, which is on target to complete by Sept. 30, 2011. Our contract with NARA allows the government to exercise a final option year six for operations and maintenance of the ERA system.”

Collins added that ERA already is helping NARA preserve and provide long-term access to electronic records.

Lake said NARA may begin develop of ERA again in 2014 after all large agencies are using the system.

NARA is waiting on Congress to ensure further development of ERA can happen. The Senate proposed NARA would receive $72 million for ERA in the fiscal 2011 omnibus spending bill now making its way through the Congress.

Lake said NARA would use that money, if approved by lawmakers, for continued development, operations and maintenance and possible transition to a new contractor.

NARA awarded Lockheed Martin the $308 million contract for ERA in 2005. Lockheed and NARA hoped to gain initial operating capability by 2007 and full operational capability by 2011.

But the Government Accountability Office found in June that the estimated cost of the ERA system has increased, and the development is behind schedule. Over the last three years, the estimated cost has increased by about seven percent, from about $531 million to about $567 million as of February 2010. GAO said the higher costs includes not only the development contract costs, but also program management, research and development and program office support, among other things.

In addition, the planned completion dates for the two increments currently under development are about one year later than dates established in program planning documents, auditors found.

GAO also found in October that NARA fell behind its initial schedule. Auditors say only two increments received initial operating capability and NARA expected further development of the system to achieve full operating capability by 2012.

“The identified deficiencies in NARA’s management of the ERA project leave it with little assurance that ERA will be able to avoid additional cost increases and schedule delays,” auditors wrote in the June report to Congress. “As a result, it is increasingly unlikely that NARA will be able to deliver the ERA system by the planned date of 2012 with the capabilities originally envisioned or to effectively use the system to meet the needs of its users in support of NARA’s mission.”

Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer, said ERA is one example of how agencies are continuing with projects despite them not meeting expectations.

“ERA was five years in development and there is limited usage,” Kundra said earlier this month during a press conference on the TechStat results of the 16 high-risk projects. “We reduced its budget by $215.5 million and will deliver functionality faster, increase the usage of the system from 80 terabytes now to 122 terabytes, and move to modular development approach. Functionality now will be delivered every few quarters. And all agencies will leverage ERA by end of next year.”

Lake said ERA will bring on 10 terabytes of data a quarter for 2011 and by the end of 2012, the use of ERA will be mandatory for every agency.

“We have some large accessions coming in,” he said. “As the war winds down in the Iraq, we are planning to get CentCom records, which are classified of course, and we are planning to get 500 terabytes of the 2010 Census data, which is closed for 72 years so that will not be made available. Part of increment five is to manage the transfer and storage of those as well. The 10 terabytes a quarter is essentially new electronic records from federal agencies.”

Piercy said the TechStat story with ERA is a good news story.

“OMB’s involvement helped us focus on our goals with ERA. We have defined, firm deadlines by which we need to get it done,” he said.

Piercy said NARA will further develop ERA over the next year around new or updated software releases.

“We will upgrade the [software] for the instance that contains unclassified federal records, the Executive Office of the President’s instance of the system, which holds presidential records,” he said. “We are doing Online Public Access and some software enhancements to OPA. We are creating a classified instance that will be based on the base instance of the system.”

Piercy said the purpose of further development is to make it easier for agencies to use the system over the next year.

“We are making changes to the workflow of the system to help agencies schedule and transfer electronic records,” Piercy said. “The changes will allow us to inject larger amounts of records in a more efficient way. It’s all designed to ramp up adoption of the system across all federal agencies.”

(Copyright 2010 by All Rights Reserved.)

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