DHS to buy monitoring system for disease management

Sole-source technology will scan global media for news of outbreaks

The Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate unveiled plans to award a sole-source contract to Mitre to expand the capabilities of a system to monitor global news media for signs of catastrophic disease outbreaks.

DHS said in an announcement on FedBizOpps.gov that it planned to negotiate a contract with Mitre under the Federal Acquisition Regulations' 'Only One Responsible Source' provision.

The department said it would not invite competitive quotations for the work. DHS plans to award Mitre a one-year base contract with two option years.

DHS will accept capability statements from other vendors, via e-mail, that believe they could carry out the work for several days.

The department said it would pay Mitre to specify, design, build, test and provide documentation for a system modeled on Global Argus, an existing project developed by Georgetown University and Mitre.

According to the Argus Web site maintained by the university, the technology is designed to track 'indications and warnings' (I&Ws) about pending disease threats to humans, animals and plants.

'I&Ws are markers occurring globally, outside of U.S. borders, before an outbreak can affect U.S. interests, forces, citizens or territory, thus allowing the U.S. time to respond,' according to the Argus program. 'In effect, I&Ws can prime the national response infrastructure by alerting agencies of an evolving threat that could ultimately be catastrophic.'

The Argus Web site claims that it is the first such early warning system to integrate I&W information on a global scale. That claim likely would come as news to international public health professionals, who have tracked the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases around the world for decades.

The Argus program already has received funds from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, and DHS.

According to other sources, the Argus technology itself originated within the intelligence community. According to one source, Argus already is used by the World Health Organization and in various settings in the intelligence community, where it can detect various types of events that disrupt societies.

The intelligence community has had a lively interest in the content of foreign news media since the days when the CIA evolved from its organizational precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, founded for intelligence purposes in World War II. The CIA and its partner agencies in the intelligence community have maintained an extensive international news media monitoring and translation service for at least 50 years.

DHS' central Procurement Operations Office, one of seven in the department, is handling the acquisition on behalf of the Science and Technology Directorate.

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