TSA awaits go-ahead on $1b IT project

Although the Transportation Security Administration last month awarded Unisys Corp. a contract to build and run a systems architecture for the agency, it's unclear what work Unisys will do or how the agency will pay the company.

The hitch results from the pending creation of a Homeland Security Department. The Office of Management and Budget, which recently asked agencies slated to become part of the proposed department to halt IT infrastructure projects, OK'd TSA's award of the $1 billion Information Technology Managed Services contract.

But no money will be spent or projects begun until the new Homeland Security IT Investment Review Group says OK. OMB created the group to review all IT infrastructure projects valued at more than $500,000 under way at the would-be HSD agencies and to find a way to consolidate them.

The award dovetails with OMB's directive because it doesn't commit money to specific projects up front, said Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for IT and e-government.

"They awarded a zero-dollar managed services contract, which was discussed with the Homeland Security IT Investment Review Group," he said.

Officials from TSA said they are working with the review group on how to proceed. OMB officials have said the administration will consider approving individual projects on a case-by-case basis as the working group sets consolidation plans.

Tom Conaway, managing principal at Unisys, said the contract likely will be broken into small task orders.

Hardware first

The initial task orders would focus on procuring PCs, handheld computers, LANs and WANs, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. The Chantilly, Va., company worked with TSA on developing its infrastructure plan. The agency's plan calls for systems integration and application development to follow later, he said.

As TSA issues task orders, each will be evaluated by the review group for approval, Forman said.

Because of the administration's HSD plans, TSA is in an unusual bind, Mather said.

"Infrastructure is a must-have," he said. "What puts TSA in a unique position is that they are building the IT shop from scratch. They need the infrastructure and without that employees cannot do their work."

The plan that TSA set for its infrastructure buy follows the procurement path forged by the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program. Under the contract, a team of vendors led by Unisys is supposed to provide all of TSA's computer, network, data center and help desk services.

Unisys' team includes DynCorp Systems and Solutions LLC of Reston, Va., IBM Corp. and 23 other companies.

Unisys bested Electronic Data Systems Corp. to win the contract, which has a three-year base period and two two-year options.

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