Vendors see STARS in INS program

The Immigration and Naturalization Service later this month plans to release a draft request for proposals for a half-billion-dollar mega-contract to provide INS with a full range of information technology services.

The upcoming Service Technology Alliance Resources (STARS) program will supply INS with systems maintenance and engineering program management and administration and systems management and support for communications and electronics systems activities to support the agency's mission of controlling the U.S. borders and naturalizing citizens.

As planned STARS will be composed of three procurements that will be worth an estimated total of $490 million and will eventually replace the expiring Information Technology Partnership contract held by Electronic Data Systems Corp.

"The work really needed to be broken up and I think that EDS has proven that [the project] is too big for one contract " said an executive from a company that will likely go after some portion of STARS.

But with all the opportunities INS is putting forth "the business decision is a little more difficult than usual " the executive said. "However unlike all of the other GWACS out there there is actually a need for this thing and some real money involved."

One STARS procurement will be for performance which will include IT services another for systems integration and another for independent verification and validation.

"We intend to award five separate contracts " said Linda Greene INS' director of procurement. "One for the integrator management three for the performance and one for independent verification and validation."

Greene spoke at a conference held last winter that INS put together to follow the Office of Procurement Policy's plan to encourage more conversation between industry and government. The conference was attended by representatives from companies that bid on ITP and others who used groupware technology to hash out the specifics of the agency's STARS strategy. A full transcript of the proceedings is available at www.usdoj.gov/ins/procurement.

What requirements will be included in the performance and integration sections is unclear.

"Everybody is waiting for the draft RFP to come out because no one is quite clear on how systems management and the performance contracts are going to be separated " said an industry source interested in bidding on STARS. "No one is sure what is going to be included in the systems integration contract and where the agency will draw the line between that and performance " said an executive from a major integration company pursuing the contract but unwilling to speak for the record.

Incumbent EDS will pursue some portion of STARS according to a company spokesman. "We're definitely very interested in that contract " he said adding that the agency's decision to split contractor functions reflects industry trends rather than any of EDS' performance.

Other vendors thought to have STARS in their eyes include CACI Inc. Computer Sciences Corp. DynCorp Hughes Data Systems Logicon Corp. and Litton/PRC Inc.The STARS program covers a full range of agency support services under a one-year contract with four option years. An award will be made next spring and will be followed immediately by a 90-day transition period before becoming fully operational by August 1998.

"I will tell you right now that one of the things that is locked up in this is that this will be a multiple-award contract " said David Goldberg INS' deputy associate commissioner for information resources management. In a recent interview Goldberg said that in the winter conference "the basic concepts were pretty much spelled out and the draft RFP will be a refinement of those."

Goldberg said however "There are not three separate categories" within the STARS contract. "It's one category with three awards."

Individual tasks will be competed under the STARS umbrella contract which underscores the need for a systems integrator function in the program Goldberg said. "It will be the integrator's responsibility to conduct that competition among those three performance contractors."

INS considers separate systems integration services to be necessary because that approach reduces agency difficulty in managing the multiple-vendor STARS program. "We want very tight systems integration " Goldberg said. "We want very tight coordination among all the contracts working together here. We want to be able to incentivize performance. We want to be able to measure contract performance and of course we want to be able to measure our own return on investment."

-- Jones is a free-lance writer based in Falls Church Va.

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