DHS readies to catch the SPIRIT

Department of Homeland Security

The Homeland Security Department is preparing to solicit bids for its $10 billion information technology services contract.

Through the Security, Planning and Integrated Resources for Information Technology (SPIRIT) program, DHS will award multiple 10-year contracts to meet the range of its technical needs, said Sandra Jean Borden, project manager of the Coast Guard's Ports and Waterways Safety System.

SPIRIT will not be mandatory for the Coast Guard or other DHS organizations, but will provide an additional acquisition tool for IT resources.

SPIRIT will award multiple contracts to vendors in four functional areas (see box).

Within each area, the department has four tiers for awards: full and open, small business, 8(a) firms, and Historically Underutilized Business Zones.

DHS officials said they expect to award a maximum of eight contracts per tier in each of the functional areas.

Vendors may receive SPIRIT contracts in any of the areas and are not limited to just one area. The department will require prime contractors' teaming partners and subcontractors to be pre-approved, Borden said.

Vendors have been eagerly anticipating the SPIRIT contracts, and that anticipation has grown as the final release date for the request for proposals keeps changing.

DHS is expected to issue the solicitation this month, but it could be delayed again, said Alicia Cudd, an analyst with Input, a market research firm.

"We believe that the reason it keeps getting pushed back is due to the scope of the program," Cudd said. "The scope keeps changing because [DHS officials are] trying to meet all of their IT needs with SPIRIT, along with anything they need to support their infrastructure."

Regardless, it appears SPIRIT will generate much activity by companies looking to get involved in the selection process.

"This is common across the federal government to have these types of vehicles," said Tom Conaway, managing partner for homeland security at Unisys Corp. "It's a way for the federal agency to get [its] arms around the procurement process."

Vendors find SPIRIT attractive because there is no limit to the number of bidders, Cudd said. The contract represents an "an open door for anyone to do business with DHS," she said.

The contracts "will be awarded to vendors in all functional areas for which those contracts are determined to provide the best value to the government, taking into consideration technical capability, management approach, past performance and pricing," Borden said.

SPIRIT differs from other government IT service contracts in that it will charge no administrative fees for DHS customers, she said.

The contracts will also promote performance-based contracting and allow various incentive features per task order, including award fees and award terms.

Task orders will accommodate all types of pricing arrangements, including firm-fixed price, time-and-materials, cost plus fixed fee and labor-hour.

Streamlined acquisition procedures will include electronic posting of DHS solicitations and electronic receipt of proposals.

Formerly known as the Coast Guard Information Technology Services Solutions program, SPIRIT was announced to industry Nov. 19, 2002.

DHS held four briefings with vendors in December 2002. Those sessions were well-attended, officials said. As a result of the growing interest, DHS has posted the answers to more than 600 vendor questions on the FedBizOpps contract Web portal.

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DHS' IT services contract

The Homeland Security Department's $10 billion information technology procurement vehicle — the Security, Planning and Integrated Resources for IT program — will award contracts in each of the following functional areas:

* Information management analysis and planning.

* Information systems engineering and design.

* Information systems operations and management.

* Information systems security.

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