TSA vendor begins systems-building blitz

The TSA infrastructure will be standardized and tailored to several types of devices, including IP phones and secure radios.

'Unisys' Tom Conaway

Over the next three and a half months, contractor teams 'will hit multiple airports at the same time' in a blitz to install servers, clients with a standard software image, notebook and handheld computers, IP telephones and other equipment for the new Transportation Security Administration.

The speedy effort will move a massively integrated IT infrastructure for 50,000 TSA workers from the drawing board to installation.

'We're working on the physical layer first,' said Tom Conaway, a former Air Force captain who heads all defense activities for Unisys Corp.'s global public-sector group.

As prime contractor for TSA's $1 billion IT Managed Services seat-management buy, Unisys is inventorying the security checkpoints at 429 airports and other TSA sites, plus designing each site's new infrastructure by a 'major milestone'the end of 2002,' he said.

Fed fast track

The installation work must be completed in mid-2003. 'TSA is on a very fast track to federalize security at airports,' Conaway said. 'High reliability is a government requirement,' he said. 'VOIP has redundant capacity for failover.'

He declined to identify the WAN backbone, the network operating system, the cybersecurity measures and the IP telephony system, but he did say that Unisys' chosen computers are predominantly from Dell Computer Corp. The infrastructure will integrate printers, copiers, wireless phones and secure mobile radios, he said.

TSA has announced that Microsoft Corp. is a software subcontractor for IT Managed Services. Other subs include carriers AT&T Corp. and Sprint Corp., VOIP vendor Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and gigabit optical networking vendor Technica Corp. of Dulles, Va. Another key supplier is aviation communications vendor Arinc Inc. of Annapolis, Md.

Unisys is designing the standard desktop image, which will have configuration control for security. The image will be replicated to each system at a mass staging site now being chosen in negotiations with primary partners DynCorp Systems & Solutions LLC of Reston, Va., and IBM Corp.

The Unisys team also must establish a site for an operations center. The Office of Management and Budget in July estimated that TSA's operations center and network together would cost $201 million.

Systems acquired by TSA prior to the seat-management award must also be spliced into the infrastructure.

'There's a software image for each end point,' Conaway said, referring to PCs, notebooks and handhelds. The desktop software includes standard word processors, spreadsheets and presentation apps, but he declined to say whether biometric or information-sharing applications were included.

Asked about pattern-matching algorithms and other analytic software that might be needed to track movements of travelers, he said, 'TSA is looking at connecting information sources downstream,' but Unisys is 'not developing any custom software at the moment.'

Farther along, he said, 'Unisys is going to be asked to take on application support roles,' subsequent to the two task orders it is now working on.

Surprisingly speedy

Unisys has permission to spend $23 million by the end of this month and $222 million in fiscal 2003 for the initial two orders. The performance-based contract could run as long as seven years.

Rapid approval of the initial task orders by the Office of Management and Budget's IT Investment Review Group surprised observers who had expected delays because of the huge job of piecing together IT needs for the proposed Homeland Security Department, of which TSA is slated to become part.

OMB told the component agencies in July to stop work on most of their systems, pending approval by the review group.

'OMB wanted to make a special point,' Conaway said. 'They didn't want the review to inhibit progress; they wanted to make sure the right decisions were made.'

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