GSA seeks industry proposals to begin OPM IT modernization

The General Services Administration is soliciting industry proposals to begin a series of IT modernization efforts at the Office of Personnel Management.

GSA on Thursday issued a request for information, which describes the agency’s intent to help OPM acquire “modern mainframe hardware” and support the agency in planning, migrating and utilizing the new hardware to eventually establish a more secure and redundant solution.

OPM’s existing hardware — as the agency’s inspector general, Government Accountability Office and Trump administration have documented on multiple occasions — needs modernizing.

“This hardware presents multiple challenges from maintenance, information security and availability perspectives,” the RFI reads. “While modernization is the final goal, OPM recognizes that stabilizing the current mainframe infrastructure is an initial step to implementing those modernization plans, and OPM cannot neglect legacy infrastructure needs in the process.”

The RFI is part of the agency’s Centers of Excellence initiative. OPM announced in May it would begin using GSA’s initiative as part of a concerted effort to modernize its legacy IT systems — and begin a series of partnerships designed to advance the Trump administration’s proposed merger of OPM with GSA.

The CoE and GSA IT teams have said they’ll focus on OPM’s IT workforce planning, overall IT planning and governance, mainframe and disaster recovery planning, and the retirement services technology portfolio.

GSA’s RFI specifically mentions OPM’s retirement service and background investigation applications, which run on the agency’s mainframe hardware.

OPM’s legacy background investigation case management system is of particular interest to lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the Defense Department. DoD is planning to use that system on a reimbursable basis when the security clearance portfolio transfers from OPM to the Pentagon on Oct. 1.

DoD is still building its own, end-to-end security clearance processing IT system, and that work is expected to continue well past the Oct. 1 transfer deadline.

Charlie Phalen, the newly named acting director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency and current director of National Background Investigations Bureau, has said OPM is “doing everything it can” to ensure the legacy case management system is secure and functional.

GSA’s Centers of Excellence initiative is just one several options under consideration to advanced the proposed OPM-GSA merger without legislation. The CoEs, as well as other inter-agency agreements and delegated authorities, are all ways GSA could manage more OPM systems, facilities and activities, Margaret Weichert, OPM’s acting director and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said back in May.

House lawmakers, however, took additional steps this week to block any and all activities related to the OPM-GSA merger.

The House on Thursday passed an amendment to the 2020 defense authorization bill, which would prevent the administration from transferring, transitioning, merging or consolidating any functions, responsibilities, programs, authorities, IT systems, staff, resources or records from OPM to GSA.

The amendment cleared the House with a 247 to 182 vote. Fifteen Republicans voted in support of the amendment, which Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced.

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