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10/6/2011
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IBM Wins $240 Million National Archives Contract

Management of the government's Electronics Record Archive, which has been plagued by cost overruns, will be under IBM's wing for the next 10 years.

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The National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) has awarded IBM a $240 million, 10-year contract to operate and maintain its massive digital archive of government records.

IBM's contract is for the "ongoing maintenance and evolution" of NARA's Electronic Records Archive (ERA), a project the agency kicked off in 2001 to preserve and provide both internal and external electronic access to large volumes of government records.

Specifically, IBM's contract is for services to manage the existing ERA systems, ensuring they remain fully operational, according to a company spokesperson. It also allows for corrections or minor adaptations of the system to continue to meet NARA's needs, she said.

[The feds are taking a new approach to fighting national security threats. Learn more: Homeland Security Revamps Cyber Arm.]

ERA is ostensibly comprised of three separate subsystems, or instances, that contain different categories of records governed by different rules. Each system shares access to universal services, such as public access and preservation.

The first subsystem NARA deployed was for federal records, in June 2008. The second was for records from the executive office of the president, which went live in 2008. NARA deployed the third subsystem, for congressional records, in December 2009.

The archive also has an online public access system for records that are free of any access restrictions imposed by the federal government.

NARA began working on the digital archive in 2001 and in 2005 awarded Lockheed Martin a $317 million contract to develop it. However, the project has not been without its troubles along the way. Earlier this year a report by the Government Accountability Office found that the project likely will cost $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion, exceeding its estimated cost of $995 million by 21% to 41%. The report cited poor project management as the reason for the soaring costs.

At the time, both NARA and Lockheed said they were working to address project-management concerns to ensure the project would cost-effectively continue to meet its mission to provide access to electronic records.

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