US-VISIT gets green light from the House

U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) Web page

Efforts by Democratic lawmakers to block Accenture from getting a $10 billion homeland security contract failed last week. A handful of lawmakers had been balking because Accenture's parent company has its headquarters in Bermuda.

In amendments to the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill, lawmakers attempted to halt the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program award to Accenture by blocking certain task and delivery orders. The first effort was struck down in a House debate, but a second amendment was introduced June 18, which was also thrown out.

The defeat is "a win for the taxpayer, and a bigger win for protecting our nation," said David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). Davis succeeded in blocking the part of the first amendment, introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), which would have banned certain contracts.

"DeLauro would cheat the taxpayer by denying federal agencies the ability to make the best deals it can for goods and services," Marin said. "Davis is a purist when it comes to procurement policy. The award should go to the company best able to provide the goods or service at the best price to taxpayers."

On the heels of the blocked amendment, which would have halted outsourcing to overseas companies, DeLauro tried again June 18 by raising a new amendment that would stop any appropriations funds from going to overseas companies in the form of task and delivery order contracts, such as the US-VISIT deal.

A second part of the initial amendment, however, is still alive and could affect future homeland security contracts. This provision would eliminate a clause in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 that states that a company based overseas before the law was passed could still receive homeland security contracts. Removing that clause means companies such as Accenture might not be eligible for future contracts, said a congressional staff member who is close to the issue.

"The Accenture contract right now looks relatively safe," the staffer said. "The [removal of the] grandfather clause, on the other hand, means that will be the last such contract of its kind."

DHS officials made "the conscious decision to take these tax dollars and give them to a company that has renounced its U.S. citizenship," said Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark.) at a press conference last week.

Company officials say the unit that won the US-VISIT deal is based in Virginia, employs 25,000 people and pays U.S. taxes on income generated within the country. The parent company has been based in Bermuda since the company was created and does not pay U.S. taxes on income from outside the United States.

Dibya Sarkar contributed to this report.

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