DHS, flush with 2006 funds, maps out major procurements

'We are trying to hire 400 to 500 [procurement] people and assimilate them to build a unified culture.'

' DHS' Greg Rothwell

Wilson P. Dizard III

The Homeland Security Department's technology procurement is losing its baby teeth.

The department is moving forward with border technology, a financial management project and two umbrella procurements, on the heels of the passage of its fiscal 2006 appropriations. President Bush's signature making the bill law injects funds into many of these projects across the board.

The blossoming of the department's IT procurement projects represents a major step forward in the transformation of a crazy-quilt collection of 22 component agencies into a unified organization with centralized contract control.

DHS chief procurement officer Greg Rothwell forecast that the department would hire at least 400 new procurement officials in fiscal 2006.

'We are trying to hire 400 to 500 [procurement] people and assimilate them to build a unified culture,' Rothwell said at a recent breakfast in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by market analyst Input of Reston, Va.

Running its own show

DHS' expansion of its own ability to issue and manage IT contracts will allow it to stop using the services of other federal agencies to buy technology.

The new contracting staff will have its hands full, easing the department away from dozens of legacy contracts to new departmentwide vehicles.

One major contract would replace the Transportation Security Administration's hastily negotiated IT managed-services agreement with Unisys Corp.

TSA officials are negotiating quietly with Unisys on a bridge contract for the company to continue providing IT infrastructure and services, even though the original contract expired in August.

After its 2002 creation by Congress as a new agency within the Transportation Department, TSA in August of that year awarded Unisys a $1 billion, three-year Information Technology Managed Services contract to create its IT infrastructure from scratch.

That contract included two two-year options. But then TSA became part of the new Homeland Security Department in 2003, and the agency elected to not award the option years.

Instead, since the original contract expired in August 2005, Unisys has been continuing to provide services and bill the government under the terms of the first contract.

According to TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley, the bridge contract is intended to ensure continuity of services while DHS plans to transition TSA to contracts 'which will consolidate all of the department's and bureaus' IT requirements [and are] expected to go into effect in the next [two] years.'

McCauley said Unisys will have an opportunity to compete for the new DHS contracts.

DHS procurement officials also plan to reshape a major land border technology procurement.

Several officials and vendor executives have cited the department's strategy to rename and remake the America's Shield Initiative to deploy technology along the borders.

'The ASI concept is alive and well,' Rothwell said.

Changes ahead for ASI?

Various Homeland Security procurement specialists inside and outside the government forecast that the department would rename America's Shield and fold it into a larger border technology program, possibly to be called the Smart Border Initiative.

Several sources said major defense contractors had been attracted to ASI and its follow-on project because the program would involve intensive use of satellite communications.

Meanwhile, DHS is still working to build an enterprise resource planning project via Emerge2.

Department officials sidestepped direct questions about the future of Emerge2, but vendor analysts predicted that DHS within days would issue BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., a task order to resume work on the financial-management software project. A source within BearingPoint confirmed a new task order was imminent.

DHS had effectively suspended work on Emerge2 after BearingPoint's most recent task order expired.

According to vendor sources, BearingPoint and the Emerge2 program office led by Catherine Santana will work to deploy the BearingPoint implementation of SAP America's ERP software to two directorates within the department.

BearingPoint and DHS officials did not respond to requests for comments on Emerge2.

In another sign of change, the department last week hosted throngs of prospective vendors at pre-proposal conferences about its planned Eagle computer services procurement. DHS intimated that the $45 billion project could be followed by Eagle II in 2010 to build on the initial program.

Lots of vendor interest

Rothwell said more than 1,300 vendor representatives had signed up to attend two briefings on the Eagle, or Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions, project at the Commerce Department auditorium in Washington.

DHS plans to issue the First Source proposal request in November. The target date for the First Source RFP release has slipped from the end of September as department officials seek to improve procurement plans, Rothwell said.

As further signs that DHS procurement methods are maturing, Rothwell pointed to the consolidation of cross-agency procurements under several DHS acquisition councils and the department's standardization of 71 separate procurement practices across its eight purchasing shops.

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