DHS plans network to link its agencies

The Homeland Security Department plans to issue a contract by the end of the year for creating and operating a network for transmitting classified data across its agencies, according to department officials and contractors.

The department will issue a task order for the Homeland Secure Data Network under the General Services Administration's Millennia governmentwide acquisition contract, said Jim Flyzik, a partner in Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates of Oak Hill, Va.

According to Input of Reston, Va., DHS' Border and Transportation Security Directorate 'has a requirement for secure, computer-to-computer connectivity among its intelligence components and field activities for the purpose of moving classified and selective law enforcement sensitive data.' The selected vendor will design, implement, operate and maintain the network, Input said.

The directorate's Customs and Border Protection Office of IT declined to release information about HSDN because it is 'in the middle of a procurement for this sensitive, mission-critical system,' a department spokeswoman said.

The HSDN project likely will amount to tens of millions of dollars, said vendor sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. They named Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, and SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., as likely leading bidders.

Vendor sources said the department issued a request for proposals early this month and expects to receive bids next month. DHS will invite oral presentations about the proposals later in November and possibly issue the task order in early December.

'What they are doing is reaching out' with the RFP, Flyzik said. 'They are looking for private-sector solutions on how to share classified information among homeland agencies. Customs has been pursuing a similar capability for several years.'

Flyzik said DHS' fiscal 2003 and 2004 budgets include money for HSDN.

According to Input, the procurement had been called the Customs Secure Data Network and has been in the works since October 2002.

Input added that designs for the network will include encryption devices and a scalable infrastructure. It also is to be based on off-the-shelf hardware and software where possible, Input said. The procurement requires vendors to have a top-secret security clearance.

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