The General Services Administration’s shift to cloud-based e-mail was meant to save $15 million over five years, but the GSA hasn’t properly tracked costs to verify whether it is meeting this goal, according to a new audit.

A report issued by the GSA’s internal audit office late last month recommends that the GSA update its analysis to document savings and develop a better way to measure the performance of its cloud-based e-mail and collaboration tools.

The GSA became the first federal agency to shift entirely to a cloud-based e-mail system in June 2011. It awarded a contract for Google e-mail and tools (such as Google Docs and Google Calendar) to Unisys in late 2010.

The move was viewed as a show of support for the White House’s “cloud-first” policy, which urged agencies to shift to cloud, or Web-based, computing.

In the new report, auditors criticized the GSA’s chief information office for failing to update its cost analysis.

“As a result, we were unable to verify whether the [chief information office] is making adequate progress towards its projected savings,” the report says.

In a September response to the report, Casey Coleman, GSA’s chief information officer, wrote that her office agreed with the findings and recommendations.

In a statement, the GSA said the migration has saved more than $2 million to date and that it stands by the $15 million estimate over five years.

Orbital takes next step

Dulles-based Orbital Sciences said last week that it has started Antares launch vehicle operations at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, the next step in its first resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The company plans to use the Antares, a rocket launcher, to get a cargo module to the space station. The operation will be run by Cygnus, a space module that uses sensors and software to navigate the cargo module to the space station.

In the next several months, Orbital said it plans to test the Antares and to complete a demonstration mission to the International Space Station.

Lockheed hangs onto DISA contract

A fight between McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. and Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin came to an end last week when the Government Accountability Office rejected SAIC’s protest over a contract awarded to Lockheed.

In a statement, the GAO said SAIC argued the Defense Information Systems Agency — the awarding agency — erred in evaluating Lockheed’s technical risk and price. SAIC also argued that Lockheed may have had an organizational conflict of interest. The GAO found DISA’s evaluation reasonable and backed its investigation of the alleged conflict.

Lockheed will now move forward with the Fort Meade-based DISA program — which it said is worth as much as $4.6 billion over seven years—to manage the Pentagon’s global data network.

Lockheed’s teammates include local contractors Serco, BAE Systems and ManTech International.

GAO criticizes strategic sourcing effort

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released last week that federal agencies aren’t effectively making use of strategic sourcing — a money-saving technique used by large organizations in which they make collective purchases for smaller units instead of allowing those offices to make their own acquisitions.

According to the GAO, large companies generally use strategic sourcing for 90 percent of their purchases and report annual savings of at least 10 percent. Federal agencies are not only frequently failing to use it but also not applying it to the areas in which they spend the most money.

When agencies use the technique, they appear to benefit; the report noted that in fiscal 2011, the strategic sourcing program saw almost 18 percent in savings.

“Perennial high spend areas such as services offer the biggest potential for savings but have been largely ignored in strategic sourcing efforts,” the report said. “Focusing only on low risk, low return strategic sourcing strategies diminishes the government’s ability to fully leverage its enormous buying power and achieve other efficiencies.”