DHS looks at procurement risk

Homeland Security Department officials say they will experiment with a new approach to evaluating companies and their products before awarding a contract for a departmental intranet portal.

DHS officials plan to use an evaluation method developed by the Interoperability Clearinghouse (ICH), a nonprofit consortium whose members include federal agencies and companies such as Boeing. Using the group’s evaluation method, the Solution Architecture Integration Lab, DHS officials think they can do more effective technical evaluations before awarding a contract.

The integration lab offers what its members call solution templates, which contain aids such as criteria for decision-making, security metrics and infrastructure and interoperability requirements.

If the new approach makes performing technical evaluations easier, it will be useful, said Steve Cooper, who is leaving his job as DHS’ chief information officer at the end of the month.

Department officials awarded a $250,000 contract to ICH for the use of its methodology. They plan to test how well the method works and later evaluate contract proposals.

Department officials plan to issue a request for proposals for the intranet portal in the spring, and dozens of companies have indicated an interest in bidding.

ICH will not be actively involved in the evaluations of portal technology, Cooper said. Instead, DHS officials think they can use ICH’s methodology to reduce the time, costs and risks of acquiring the technology.

“Our process looks at the business fit, securability and interoperability,” said John Weiler, ICH’s executive director.

Although it is not common to use ICH’s integration lab to sort suitors for government contracts, some industry officials say they welcome the approach.

“While an evaluation is not typical, it’s not unusual,” said John Paty, national account executive at the Art Technology Group, a Web software firm that might bid on the portal contract.

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said a structured evaluation method is especially useful in an environment like DHS’, “where a high number of businesses beat a path to their doorstep.”

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