INS taps Lockheed for $83M pact

The Immigration and Naturalization Service this month awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a contract worth up to $83 million to manage a system that allows federal agencies to check if immigrants are legally eligible for federal benefits.

Lockheed will provide technical support and automated data processing services for INS' Verification Information System database part of the agency's Systematic Alien Verification Entitlement program.The database is at the heart of the program which allows agencies such as the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services and the Education Department as well as the Social Security Administration to check on the immigration status of noncitizens and determine whether they are eligible for benefits such as educational loans grants welfare or Medicare.

Lockheed held the previous management contract for 10 years and was the only bidder for the follow-on contract which covers five years. Nearly 150 companies requested information on the INS procurement."I'd thought we'd get competition " said Bob Richards contracting officer for the procurement.

Under the previous contract INS only spent about $12 million over the 10 years. The ceiling of nearly $83 million for the new contract allows room for increased use of the system. Currently federal agencies send about 6 million queries a year to the database.

But Millard Bierman Lockheed program manager for SAVE said queries could increase to as many as 36 million over the next few years as employers access the system to check if immigrants hired for work have legal documents.

INS is testing such a system. Under the Employment Verification Pilot INS has signed agreements with the largest companies in the meat-packing and poultry industries to submit alien registration numbers of new hires who are immigrants via a PC and modem.

The database checks if the numbers are legal and notifies the employer if INS has no record of the number. INS officials say the program has thwarted thousands of illegal immigrants from getting jobs in the United States.

The database may become more heavily used as reforms in the welfare system and other entitlement programs make it necessary for agencies to increase their use of the database when handing out benefits.For Lockheed the win is significant. By some estimates Lockheed may "have grown so large that just to stay alive and in business they need $1 million worth of new business a day " said Dave Stillwell director of marketing for CAI/SISCo an information technology procurement consulting firm in Gaithersburg Md. "So incumbent contracts to Lockheed Martin...are the absolute necessity."

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