Bermuda triangle

Thomas R. Temin

There's more than a little hypocrisy in the minimovement to strip Accenture Ltd. of its contract for the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visit project.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), in the final minutes of a House Appropriations Committee budget markup session, managed to insert an amendment into the DHS appropriation bill that would bar giving homeland security contracts to companies that use loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes.

DHS officials apparently expected this kind of gambit. Secretary Tom Ridge reportedly called the losing bidders, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp., before the May 28 award announcement, seeking assurances there would be no protest. At an industry breakfast the morning of the markup hearing on June 9, undersecretary Asa Hutchinson of the Border and Transportation Security directorate defended the award.

It's never been a secret that Accenture is headquartered in Bermuda. It didn't recently move. But the company employs tens of thousands of people in the United States, many of them in the Washington area, within a short drive of DHS' sites.

There is nothing in the Federal Acquisition Regulation or U.S. law that bars Accenture from federal contracts. And the company falls within special DHS regulations on contracting with companies so incorporated.

Neither was it a secret that Accenture was among the bidders for the U.S. Visit work, worth potentially $10 billion. So this move has the look of something rehearsed.

Companies pay U.S. taxes on profits earned in the United States. Their customers and employees pay taxes. And work on U.S. Visit, which includes networking, systems integration and software development, will be done by employees in the United States.

So who would benefit if the contract were undone by this ham-fisted legislative fiat? Accenture's competitors, perhaps.

And who or what would suffer? The integrity of the procurement system, for one. DHS for another. And, because a contract switch would entail delay and greater cost, the taxpayers.

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