NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has announced the selection of Raytheon Information Technology and Systems Services (R/ITSS *suggest you use RITSS throughout*) *company suggest delete* to provide support at Goddard for the Space Science Data Operations Office (SSDOO), including NSSDC. The new contract was awarded after an extended competition. It covers the period December 1998 through November 2000 and has three one-year options after that.
R/ITSS was the incumbent contractor. The group supporting SSDOO traces its heritage to Space Applications Research (SAR), Inc., a joint venture of STX and RMS, which won the NSSDC contract in 1986. By virtue of sales/purchases and renamings of organizations, none of those 1986 names are current today. Dr. William Taylor, who joined Hughes STX as project manager for its SSDOO contract in 1996, will remain as project manager.
All prior NSSDC/SSDOO contracts have been level-of-effort, support services contracts wherein the contractor works against a series of periodically updated task statements and has part of its fee determined by government judgment on the quality of work delivered. The new RITSS contract will have tasks addressing SSDOO's more advanced technical and scientific activities and an evaluation process for the work performed under these tasks similar to the process of past contracts.
The novel feature, however, of the new contract is that routine SSDOO activities, mainly related to NSSDC and to pipeline processing of astrophysics mission data in SSDOO's Astrophysics Data Facility, will be covered under a "performance-based contracting (PBC)" part of the contract. This PBC part involves a fixed set of metrics, such as turnaround times for data ingests and requests. The contractor's fee for this work will be determined by the extent to which it meets, exceeds, or falls short of the metrics written into the contract. There will be little or no government judgment involved.
This introduction of performance-based contracting at SSDOO/NSSDC reflects a NASA-wide and government-wide attempt to turn over to the private sector as much responsibility and as many activities as are reasonable to free up government personnel to focus better on leading edge R&D, advanced planning, etc. Many NASA-supporting efforts have now been transferred to the private sector through performance-based contracting, an early and visible example being the Space Shuttle operations pursued at Kennedy Space Center by United Space Alliance. RITSS and NASA are confident that this new arrangement will yield yet more cost-beneficial operations at NSSDC and at SSDOO.