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GSA Prepares For Federal Mobile Push

General Services Administration simplifies federal procurement of wireless equipment and services, expands its smartphone use to iPhones and Android-based devices.

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Anticipating the influx of new mobile technology in the federal government, the General Services Administration (GSA) is preparing to simplify the purchase of wireless equipment and services, just as GSA itself is beginning to explore the use of iPhones and Android-based devices.

The GSA, the federal government's chief procurement agency for technology products and services, will soon release a wireless blanket purchase agreement (BPA) under the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI), according to a GSA blog post by Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for the Office of Integrated Technology Services in the agency's Federal Acquisition Service.

The BPA will allow agencies to purchase wireless service plans, devices, and infrastructure, such as messaging services and devices, according to the GSA. BPAs allow agencies to make repeated buys of certain products and services, simplifying their purchase by reducing time and paperwork as well as allowing them to take advantage of discounts.

[ The feds are looking for new ways to secure commercial smartphones. See National Security Agency Plans Smartphone Adoption. ]

The BPA will include requirements to enable enterprise-level management and reporting, and will integrate with planned modifications to the GSA's Telecommunications Expense Management Service (TEMS) FSSI, Davie said. This will allow agencies to manage their mobile inventory and expenses through a single, secure interface.

The GSA also is part of a mobile government, or mGov, team that's examining opportunities in acquisition, inventory, and expense management to further aggregate and leverage what and how wireless products and services are bought, she added.

The move supports a trend across agencies to bolster their use of mobile technologies to improve internal efficiencies and how they do business with partners and customers. It also supports a standard mobile strategy that U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel is working with agencies on to accelerate the adoption of mobile technologies.

The BPA coincides with a decision by the GSA to join other agencies that will expand its smartphone use, beyond the stalwart BlackBerry, to iPhones and Android-based devices. The agency is giving a small number of its more than 12,000 employees these devices in addition to ones based on Research in Motion's (RIM's) OS, which long has dominated the federal market.

BlackBerry's position has been challenged recently by more widespread adoption of iOS and Android, as well as a bring your own device policy many agencies are instituting, allowing employees to use their own smartphones at work.

Just last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it will replace the agency's BlackBerry devices with iPhones, a full-stop move that is more dramatic than the slower transition other departments--like the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs--are taking.

However, a RIM executive told InformationWeek recently that the company's government business remains strong and continues to grow, despite more competition from other smartphones.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

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