A surfeit of RFPs?

GCN Insider | Only seven products were submitted to TSA for evaluation for the agency's qualified products list. Why

At the Biometric Consortium Conference in Baltimore in mid-September, the Transportation Security Administration announced the first four products to make it onto its qualified products list (QPL), a listing of tested and approved products recommended for purchase by airports around the country.

The big surprise in our view was that only seven products were put through the evaluation process. Out of all the dozens of vendors and hundreds of biometric products available, why would only seven be submitted?

A spokesperson at TSA hinted that the requirements specified in a TSA guidance document may have deterred many vendors from participating.

But vendors themselves point to other deterrents.

First, many federal evaluation programs require vendors to pay a fee. The cost of TSA's QPL testing was $25,000 per project. 'You need to make sure you're making a wise investment,' said one vendor who asked not to be identified. 'Part of the hesitancy is to see where some of the key programs are going before the investments are made.'

Another major deterrent, say some, is the fragmented nature of federal testing. If you've got multiple agencies running testing programs and each costs money and staff time on the part of vendors, there's either going to be a lot of duplication of effort or vendors will have to be selective.

'There are lots of good reasons that different parts of DHS and different parts of the federal government should be talking to each other and should have coherent and consistent testing strategies,' said Andrew Howell, a partner at Monument Policy Group, a Washington consulting firm. Greater coordination of testing would save money and time, he said.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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