Denver to be home to USGS National Geospatial Technical Operations Center; Competitive Sourcing Study to Begin Immediately

By Adena Schutzberg

USGS logo
In a surprisingly poorly attended conference call on Thursday afternoon, Karen Siderelis, the USGS Associate Director for Geospatial Information, addressed the planned consolidation of the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center (NGTOC) to the city of Denver.The NGTOC will consolidate the functions and operations currently performed in four USGS mapping centers (Menlo Park, Calif.; Rolla, Mo.; Denver, Colo.; and Reston, Va.) and other distributed sites.

Siderelis, aided by Barbara Wainman, from the USGS office of communications, took questions from four journalists and one interested party.

The Selection
The primary driver for the reorganization is not, as was suggested by one reporter, privatizing government functions, or as was suggested by a second, political pressure.Siderelis made it clear that the changes aimed to "adapt the workforce" to the current nature of the USGS' business.In particular, the reorganization would allow it to better serve its partners.USGS hopes to keep and strengthen its existing partnership through the reorganization and to grow the program. Siderelis noted too that the offices were really relics of a time when specialized expertise was needed in the field.

The selection involved three basic criteria: which location offered the best chance at success, which location offers the best opportunity to work with customers and partners and responses to specific queries to each site regarding its capabilities.In the end, Denver won due, among other things, to its co-location with many Department of Interior groups, its technical and physical infrastructure, and the numerous partners in the area.Gory details on the selection are in the Word document.

Workforce Reduction
Currently, there are 409 full time equivalent staff at the Rolla, Denver, eastern and western regional centers.The two largest are Rolla with 185 and Denver with 100.Siderelis suggested that very few, if any, staff members will not be working in Denver in the coming years. Moreover, she suggested, it's likely the total number of employers expected to end up in Denver will be fewer than are there now. Employees who are not retained after the reorganization will receive career counseling and may be able to compete for other USGS positions.

How will the final number of employees be determined? Like many other things, that number depends on the outcome of the planned A-76 competitive sourcing process which will begin in the next week or so. An A-76 study examines commercial work that's done by the government and effectively puts it out to bid by commercial and government parties. USGS will ultimately choose from those bids.

Competitive Outsourcing
To get to this point, that is, to an A-76, USGS completed a pre-planning study earlier in the year.It ran from April to August. Siderelis shared several things learned from the study.
  • It's feasible and valuable to move to competitive sourcing.
  • It's advantageous to consolidate in one center.
  • There are some functions the government should continue to perform including management of the Center, functions related to core data development that require highly specialized institutional knowledge, contract management and some GIS science research.
As examples of the functions that might be outsourced, Siderelis listed data integration, information technology infrastructure and archiving.These are all commercial tasks that may be better done by outside contractors.

The timeline then, looks like this.Next week USGS hopes to post official notification of the A-76 study to Fed Biz Opps.For now, Max Ethridge, who is based in Rolla, will continue as acting director of the Center.In about a year, after the A-76 study is complete a new director may be chosen.That depends on the results of the A-76.

Other Directions Coverage of USGS Reorganization
National Geospatial Programs Office Update (May 17, 2005)

USGS Explores the Future
(April 4, 2005)

Changes at USGS (February 15, 2005)

USGS Reorganizes Geospatial Technology Programs ...Is This Reorganization Focused on the Right Things? (August 25, 2004)

Published Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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