Initial recovery.gov pricetag: $9 million (Updated)

by on July 9, 2009 · 15 comments

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has finally made the first big move toward building Recovery.gov. According to Federal Times:

GSA announced last night that it has awarded a contract for the Recovery.gov redesign; the $18 million contract went to Smartronix, a Maryland-based IT firm. It beat out 58 other bidders.

The first part of the contract is worth about $9.5 million through January; other options, which extend through January 2014, are worth another $8.5 million or so.

Does anyone have a link to the actual contract? I’d like to know what we’re getting for $9.5 million. The core functionality of USASpending.gov, which is supposed to track all federal spending, was acquired for less than $1 million. In a recent Mercatus briefing paper I took a look at the spending transparency sites of 10 states and the most expensive one cost $300,000. So what is this $9.5 million website going to have on it? Is Smartronix also building out the central reporting database at FederalReporting.gov?

Quick drum bang: Make the raw spending data available and you will see corporations, non-profits, newspapers, and opengov nerds put up dozens of Recovery.govs with more features than the RAT Board can conceive or afford.

UPDATE: Crack reporter Aliya Sternstein at Nextgov has been doing a fantastic job covering the Recovery.gov story and she reports today that the RAT Board promises to make all the raw data available. Also in her piece, FederalReporting.gov has its own contractor, CGI Federal. So, that can’t account for the $9.5 million price tag. Still looking for the contract.

UPDATE 2: Folks have been saying that Smartronix beat out 58 other bidders for the contract. That is not correct. If you read the GSA release carefully, they say “59 companies were eligible to compete for the award.” There were reports last week that there were only two bidders. Today Jason Miller said on the radio that he could only confirm 3 bidders, including Smartronix.

  • J. Stephens

    My off the cuff response is that it doesn't make sense to compare the costs for a website of this size to a state website which serves 1/50th of the users. if it includes database support, video production costs, or hosting capacity it could add up to be quite a bit more than the state's web sites you found that cost $300k. Multiply $300k for one state's worth of viewers by 50 (for 50 states worth of capacity; sorry Guam, DC, et al) and you get $15 million. To be sure, there are economies of scale when you scale up and capacity is just one subset of costs, but you get the point that some of the costs are variable and depend on the number of viewers. Another factor somewhat unique to federal govt. contracting: a fair amount of time and money gets spent complying with and reporting on small business admin. set asides, section 508/ADA disability compliance, and many other standard add-ons the federal government typically requires which the states might not bother with.
    So in addition to scaling up the number of users of a federal vs a state system (at least 50 times more capacity is required than for a state system–that means many more servers, splitters, etc.), one should also look at any additional functions/content they are adding in, computer security precautions that exist at the fed level which don't exist at the state level, the need (if any) for people with security clearances for amounts spent on classified projects that doesn't likely exist at the state level, and also the amount of content they have to handle; i.e., the amount of money being spent that they have to track on this website is immense and dwarfs any prior state and federal projects. If they actually need accountants around to monitor things or provide analysis, then that will add up quickly. It all depends on the requirements for the site. Cheers-

  • http://www.dorobekinsider.com/ Christopher Dorobek

    Jerry,
    You can find the pre-solicitation notice from FedBizOps here:
    https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=fo

    That is all I have been able to find. If you find a copy of the actual RFP — or the contract — I'd love to see it too.

    In the meantime, my take on the Recovery.gov contract questions…
    http://federalnewsradio.com/?nid=150&sid=1714884

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  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    If I make a website that has a 10GB database and another with a 10,000GB database, the cost of the second is not 1000 times that of the first. The second site would perhaps cost more to host, but the software that feeds out the smaller amount of data could serve out the much larger amount just as well. So, it's not fair to say that a federal version of a transparency site should cost 50 times that of a state-level site.

    The $300,000 state-level site is also questionable. Building a website that's purpose is to simply display data in a clear way that is easily searched is not an expensive proposition.

    The reason this site is going to cost the taxpayers $18 million when all is said is done is because of the convoluted federal bidding process that shuts out all but the most politically connected contractors. This is why a DEFENSE CONTRACTOR is building this website, instead of one of the hundreds of top-tier web software developers in the country.

    Perhaps we need more transparency in order to build a good transparency site?

  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    If I make a website that has a 10GB database and another with a 10,000GB database, the cost of the second is not 1000 times that of the first. The second site would perhaps cost more to host, but the software that feeds out the smaller amount of data could serve out the much larger amount just as well. So, it's not fair to say that a federal version of a transparency site should cost 50 times that of a state-level site.

    The $300,000 state-level site is also questionable. Building a website that's purpose is to simply display data in a clear way that is easily searched is not an expensive proposition.

    The reason this site is going to cost the taxpayers $18 million when all is said is done is because of the convoluted federal bidding process that shuts out all but the most politically connected contractors. This is why a DEFENSE CONTRACTOR is building this website, instead of one of the hundreds of top-tier web software developers in the country.

    Perhaps we need more transparency in order to build a good transparency site?

  • Nick

    I'm a software engineer who has built web applications for Office Depot, Target, AIG (no I'm not proud of it) and many others. J. Stephens apparently has not worked in the private sector. Even with the requirements that he noted, the price tag on this project can not be described any way other than “theft”. There is a reason that we're not allowed to see what is included in the price tag… because there is nothing they can say to justify the cost that would be believable by anyone who would know better.

  • Timon

    Twitter as we know it was built for about $15-20 million. Google lasted almost a year on $100,000 before taking over the world with $25 million of investor money. This is highway robbery, you could hire 25 PhDs with this. There probably isn't a company in the tech-sector top 100 that had this much money in its first 6 months. This is more like the B series venture investments of extremely promising and innovative companies like Aster Data, 23andme, NanoBio, etc.

    What a tremendous starting point for recovery act transparency and efficiency — they waste vast amounts of money on the mechanism to ensure we don't waste vast amounts of money. It reminds me of the Vietnamese government anti-piracy office, which runs on pirated Windows.

  • Timon

    Twitter as we know it was built for about $15-20 million. Google lasted almost a year on $100,000 before taking over the world with $25 million of investor money. This is highway robbery, you could hire 25 PhDs with this. There probably isn't a company in the tech-sector top 100 that had this much money in its first 6 months. This is more like the B series venture investments of extremely promising and innovative companies like Aster Data, 23andme, NanoBio, etc.

    What a tremendous starting point for recovery act transparency and efficiency — they waste vast amounts of money on the mechanism to ensure we don't waste vast amounts of money. It reminds me of the Vietnamese government anti-piracy office, which runs on pirated Windows.

  • Timon

    Twitter as we know it was built for about $15-20 million. Google lasted almost a year on $100,000 before taking over the world with $25 million of investor money. This is highway robbery, you could hire 25 PhDs with this. There probably isn't a company in the tech-sector top 100 that had this much money in its first 6 months. This is more like the B series venture investments of extremely promising and innovative companies like Aster Data, 23andme, NanoBio, etc.

    What a tremendous starting point for recovery act transparency and efficiency — they waste vast amounts of money on the mechanism to ensure we don't waste vast amounts of money. It reminds me of the Vietnamese government anti-piracy office, which runs on pirated Windows.

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