DHS taps reverse auction to buy scanner parts

Components support shift to two-fingerprint scanning

Originally posted Feb. 27, 2007. Reposted with clarification March 5, 2007.

The Homeland Security Department has chosen the online reverse auction service FedBid Inc. of Vienna, Va., to purchase components for a model of two-finger scanners used in U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system.

The U.S. Visit acquisition office within DHS' central procurement office is overseeing the reverse auction. Contracting specialist Shelby Buford said the auction has been open for five days and will end today. Buford said he had used the FedBid service before and 'I would do it again.'

In this case, DHS is using FedBid to buy 40 prism kits and 20 foot-pedal switches for scanners built by Identix Inc. of Minnetonka, Minn. Fingerprint-scanning devices use prisms to handle the light they handle while capturing and processing fingerprint images.

DHS already has bought fingerprint scanners from Identix under a $2 million contract awarded through NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement 3 governmentwide acquisition contract in 2005.

U.S. Visit officials are overseeing a shift from two-fingerprint technology to 10 fingerprint technology.

DHS has a lot of company as a FedBid customer. FedBid spokeswoman Susannah Griffiths said her seven-year-old company now is handling about $700 million of federal acquisition volume at an annual rate. 'Our bread and butter is IT [acquisitions],' Griffiths said. 'But we have sold everything from [thousands of] urine cups to pinball machines.'

FedBid is just breaking into the Pentagon market, Griffiths said, and the Army has launched several pilot projects at its forts to evaluate the service.

The State Department, which was the company's only client during a one-year test phase that ended in 2001, earlier this month awarded FedBid a five-year renewal contract.

'We have 50 employees now and probably are going to double that number in the coming months,' Griffiths said. The company is privately held.

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