IT firm helps federal government operate more efficiently

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by Donna C. Gregory

Security clearances for airport screeners. The price of bananas at the local supermarket. What’s that got to do with the small Reston-based Ace Info Solutions? 

Everything. The IT-consulting firm designs and maintains computer software for massive bureaucracies, including 10 of the federal government’s Cabinet-level departments. Its goal: Help the agencies manage their data more efficiently. 

For the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, that means applications that ultimately affect the price of imported food. For the Transportation Security Administration, the focus is on checking the backgrounds of airport screeners, transforming paperwork into an electronic format.

In recognition of its work, the company, called AceInfo for short, was named 2007 Government Contractor of the Year Award winner in the under-$25-million category in a competition run by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors.

“We bring our best practices to the customer, but at the same time, we have a very strong team who has been working with the customers for a very long time,” says Madhulika Gharpurey, an AceInfo program manager for the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). “I think it’s a happy marriage of the best practices and the
knowledge of the customer.”

AceInfo employees talk about VB.Net, PowerBuilder and MS SQL servers, terms that may sound like a foreign language to most people.

But the company’s work has daily implications for U.S. citizens. Its current contract with FAS, for example, involves developing and maintaining IT applications that help the federal government set tariffs on imported goods, a function that affects how much customers pay at the grocery store checkout.

“One of the new applications has to do with the analysis of export/import data worldwide, in order to make pricing decisions,” says Gharpurey. “The main tool for this agency is data. All of that needs to be crunched in real time.”

Swarnali Haldar of FAS’s Information Technology Division says AceInfo’s work is critical to the agency’s task of tracking USDA’s international activities, “including market development, trade agreements and negotiations, and the collection and analysis of statistics and market information.”

When AceInfo began its most recent contract with FAS a couple of years ago, the bulk of its work involved maintaining existing software systems. But as technologies continued to evolve, the job has shifted to more software development. “It speaks to the amount of confidence that we’ve been able to garner from the customer,” says Gharpurey. “It’s a really big change for them. Rather than having to wait for data and then analyze it, they will now have the tools to do that online.”

Another government client is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency charged with screening airport passengers. “The goal is to make sure the security airport screeners have proper clearances by the TSA,” says Jay Challa, AceInfo’s president and CEO. Since 9/11, airport screeners have played a major role in the government’s efforts to prevent further terrorist attacks.

At the Department of Commerce, AceInfo is developing an automated process to help minorities start businesses. AceInfo is setting up an online portal where entrepreneurs can create a business plan, find capital and identify potential government contracts.

“The future is to continue to do a good job,” says Challa. 


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