DHS imposes order on software buys

Prepares $200M contract under Eagle procurement

INCREASED CONTROL: DHS CIO Scott Charbo now has more authority over other department CIOs' IT spending.

GCN file photo

The Homeland Security Department is preparing an acquisition that likely will consolidate $200 million in information technology operations and maintenance work now spread across several vendors, according to procurement documents and industry sources.

The Information Technology Networking Operations Virtual Alliance (IT-NOVA) solicitation will fall under DHS' Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge (EAGLE) solutions umbrella contracts for IT services, which the department awarded last year (GCN.com/756), DHS said in procurement documents.

The operations and maintenance contract consolidation offers DHS the opportunity to apply uniform standards and metrics across its IT infrastructure. That's an important advantage as the department seeks to bring harmony to the gaggle of systems it inherited from legacy agencies or cobbled together quickly for its new agencies.

DHS also seeks to use IT-NOVA to gain economies of scale, improve efficiency and information sharing, standardize support services, and reduce cost, the department's Procurement Operations Office told prospective bidders.

The department asked likely bidders last month to comment on a draft of the IT-NOVA work statement and supporting documents. The Infrastructure Operations Division in DHS' chief information officer's office is working with the department's central procurement office on the acquisition.

DHS has signaled that it likely will request proposals for the IT-NOVA work in May and award one or more contracts in July, vendors said.

Vendor executives suggested that the IT-NOVA acquisition, if successful, would bring the department closer to rationalizing its somewhat discord-
ant technology infrastructure.

'IT-NOVA is almost a bellwether in how they want to do IT acquisition,' said Tom Cona- way, managing partner for homeland security at Unisys. 'This is a major consolidation.'

Other industry sources suggested that DHS likely would hold an industry day to inform prospective bidders further on the scale and nature of the IT-NOVA work.
Some of the IT-NOVA work would overlap with technology support Unisys already is providing to DHS via its contract with the Transportation Security Administration. That agreement was extended after its initial expiration under
an optional bridge contract.

As for other companies now providing services to DHS under contracts that IT-NOVA would replace, vendor sources suggested that a transition period would begin after the department awards the new pact.

Work on IT-NOVA likely will begin during this calendar year, the department has told vendors.

Vendor sources suggested that DHS likely would begin to show more central control now that the department's CIO, Scott Charbo, has received additional authority over IT spending by the department's other CIOs, as well as control over their hiring, pay and performance ratings.

'Even though the headquarters CIO office now has more clout, you are never going to get away from having the seven separate procurement offices in the department,' one vendor executive said. 'We call them the gang of seven.'

According to planning documents for the IT-NOVA acquisition, the winning vendor
will be required to provide support for unclassified, secret and top-secret networks that link DHS headquarters and 18 other agencies or groups of organizations, such as outside federal, state and local entities.

One indicator of the scale of work is the number of seats the department's classified local-area network connects and the IT-NOVA vendor will support.

That figure, listed as 4,371 in the acquisition documents as of this fiscal year, is projected to increase to 5,202 next year, 5,606 in 2009 and 6,070 by 2013.
The winning vendor also will be charged with providing operations and maintenance support for the department's classified LAN, according to the acquisition plan.

That network supports 1,630 seats at 79 locations this year, a figure that is projected to increase to 1,710 next year. The classified LAN will grow to 1,800 seats by 2008 and progressively to 2,120 seats by 2013, according to the acquisition plan.

IT-NOVA is intended, according to procurement documents, to replace existing contracts with five companies: General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, TWD and Associates, Unisys and Verizon Communications.

Industry sources said six large integrators are planning to bid on the IT-NOVA work: Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Science Applications International Corp. and Unisys.

Lockheed Martin stated by e-mail that it is evaluating the IT-NOVA procurement and will make a decision as to whether to bid when DHS releases the proposal request.
Press representatives of Northrop Grumman and Unisys said their companies expect to bid. SAIC declined to comment on the matter.

Up to a decade

The final IT-NOVA contract may call for an agreement extending as long as 10 years, if all options are executed, industry sources said. Draft acquisition plans call for the work to be priced on a time-and-materials basis.

The IT-NOVA work statement calls for winning vendors to provide operations and maintenance services for government-furnished equipment installed in department facilities.

Part of the IT-NOVA work likely will include furnishing equipment to organizations within the department that add users or require new IT gear.

Acquisition plans call for that new equipment to be acquired under one or more of DHS' 53 First Source contracts issued last year.

Those umbrella contracts give department organizations a standardized method of purchasing equipment that DHS' central procurement office has approved.

One industry source commented that bidders for the IT-NOVA contract face the conundrum of having to estimate the cost of maintaining equipment of uncertain vintage and state of repair.

'It's as if the vendors are being told, 'Make an offer to buy my car, but I am not going to tell you the year it was built or the number of miles on it,' ' the industry source said.

The IT-NOVA acquisition plan states that DHS will tell prospective vendors about the vintage and quality of the existing government-furnished equipment.

But the industry source observed that federal agencies' evaluations of the condition of their equipment are notoriously unreliable.

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