DHS outlines IT contracts

Programs for products, services fill gap left by SPIRIT cancellation.

One year after the Homeland Security Department officially scrapped a proposed multibillion-dollar information technology buying contract, officials plan to brief industry representatives this week on two new programs to help agencies make the most of their IT buying power.

The programs are First Source, which assists with IT commodity needs, and Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge (EAGLE) solutions, which addresses IT services. They will consist of multiple indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts for large and small businesses. Requests for proposals for both are expected in the next few weeks.

"It looks like this is the long-awaited answer" to the Security, Planning and Integrated Resources for IT (SPIRIT) program, said David Nadler, a procurement attorney and partner at Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin and Oshinsky, referring to the now-defunct, multibillion-dollar effort that was supposed to maximize departmentwide IT buying power. But SPIRIT proved too complex, and DHS officials canceled it last year.

Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions who assisted DHS in developing First Source and EAGLE, agreed that the two new programs will address the department's collective IT spending power. But their structures will also be significantly different from SPIRIT.

He said the proposed programs make sense because the department spent $6 billion on technology purchases last year.

"It is a part of strategic sourcing that says that as I go about acquiring goods and services to help the agency perform [its] mission, I should have visibility, insight into who is buying what, when, where, why and how, and feedback mechanisms to ensure that they're getting value for their dollars," Mather said.

Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman, said the programs will help the department aggregate its buying power instead of each agency buying the same products and services at higher costs.

"When you think about the amount of procurement that any department — not just this department, but any department — does with today's technology, this is just a really, really smart move," he said.

Nadler said the announcement of the new programs "comes at an interesting time, when agencies are under increasing pressure to consolidate contract vehicles rather than create more agency-specific vehicles."

But Mather said it is better for a department that spends $6 billion on technology to create its own procurement programs rather than go to another agency for its needs.

He said other agencies' fees range from as low as 0.75 percent to about 4 percent or 5 percent, depending on the services provided. That could add up to tens of millions of dollars in additional fees, he said.

Officials said the 22 agencies that form DHS will probably not be required to buy through First Source and EAGLE programs, but they would be required to consider them.

Mather said that means if another route looks better, the agencies will have to go through a waiver process to explain why First Source and EAGLE are not suitable.

In such a case, the department's IT Acquisition Center, which was established last year to help streamline technology spending and oversee the programs, will be able to address problems or gaps within them, he said.

After the demise of SPIRIT, technology vendors have been waiting for the department to propose such contract vehicles. Orluskie said there has been tremendous industry interest in the briefing, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

A two-pronged approach

Homeland Security Department officials plan two central procurements:

  • First Source will cover a wide range of information technology products, such as hardware and software; networking equipment and wireless technology; imaging products; voice-recognition technology; and product maintenance, installation and support.
  • The Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions program will provide a broad range of IT services, including systems design, development, implementation and integration; systems operation and maintenance; independent tests, validation, verification and evaluation; software design, development, implementation and integration; and management support services.

Source: Homeland Security Department

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