INS upgrade reaches for $1.2B Stars

The Immigration and Naturalization Service this month launched a $1.2 billion project to bring the agency "out of the Dark Ages."

INS released the request for proposals for the Service Technology Alliance Resources (Stars) project a multiple-award contract that the agency will use to provide itself with upgraded equipment.

Although INS has been under attack for failing to keep large numbers of illegal immigrants from entering the United States INS officials do not view Stars as providing more technological power to capture illegal immigrants. "It's reason for being is simply to provide a continuation of the normal spectrum of [information technology] services that any agency requires - an agency with a large ADP capacity " said David Goldberg the deputy associate commissioner for information resources management at INS. "I wouldn't say that this is intended to fix major problems."

Still Stars will give INS a chance to replace older systems with newer ones. "I think in general they want to have their infrastructure and their ability to carry out their mission come out of the Dark Ages " said Jim Merrell the vice president of civil systems business development at Litton/PRC Inc. which plans to bid on the contract.

Initially IT experts estimated Stars to be worth $850 million. But spending under Stars' predecessor - the $295 million Information Technology Partnership contract which was awarded to Electronic Data Systems Corp. in August 1994 - was greater than expected and is reaching its maximum value a year earlier than expected.

"We're not surprised" by the higher estimated value said Ste-phen Kalish vice president for development programs at Computer Sciences Corp. which plans to bid on Stars. "They have an awful lot of work to do." INS plans to set up stiff competition for the contract which will be awarded to five vendors. According to the RFP INS plans to split Stars into three parts or lots. INS will award one vendor Lot One which will cover enterprisewide program and systems management and integration support. Three vendors will be chosen for Lot Two which will cover systems development operations and maintenance for specific INS information technology projects. And one vendor will be chosen for Lot Three under which the contractor will conduct independent validation and verification including pre-screening and evaluation of IT plans and implementation.

Of the $1.2 billion covered by Stars 30 percent is expected to go to the Lot One winner 60 percent is expected to go to the three Lot Two contractors and 10 percent is expected to be spent with the Lot Three contractor.

"I think that's the trend in government today - to spread the risk to not put your eggs all in one basket " INS' Goldberg said.

"Bite-Size Pieces Spread the Risk"

"Making smaller bite-size pieces spreads the risk around a little more " said Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. an IT procurement consulting firm in McLean Va. "And a shift in the risk will tend to promote competition."

INS also plans to provide cash incentives to contractors' employees in an effort to encourage better performance. Employees who might have competed against each other to win a certain lot might later find themselves working together if they won different lots.

"I think it's guaranteeing performance " said Anthony Constable president of CAI/SISCo an IT procurement consulting firm in Gaithersburg Md. "Clearly what [INS is] saying is [that] one of the weaknesses of past performance has been the inability of contractors to work together."

INS plans to set aside $500 000 every six months for the cash incentives and will distribute all - or some - of the money based on vendors' "cooperation as a team " according to the RFP.

"It doesn't go to corporate [offices] " Goldberg said. "It goes to the project team."

In giving workers incentives Goldberg said he and other INS officials hope to "negate" the adversarial role that contract workers can fall into when their jobs require them to work closely with a competitor's employees.

Vendors seem to be warm to the idea. "This is really innovative " said Ann Cohen vice president for law enforcement business at EDS' Government Services Division which also plans to bid on Stars. "They are taking companies and saying `Go and compete for whatever piece you're going to get and then once you get it cooperate with the guy you were just competing against.' "

Proposals for Stars are due Oct. 29 and an award is expected by July.

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