INS picks 3 for mega IT deal

The Immigration and Naturalization Service awarded to three vendors the largest segment of its $1.2 billion program to continue development of the agency's full range of information systems—- from the computers by which agents verify the identities of border crossers to the systems INS workers use to process information on citizenship candidates.

The winning vendors under the program, which is called the Service Technology Alliance Resources (Stars) program, are EDS Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp. The value of the contracts is estimated at $750 million over five years.

Last month, INS awarded a $400 million contract to a team of bidders led by Science Applications International Corp. to plan and integrate ongoing systems development at INS. Under SAIC's guidance, EDS, CSC and Lockheed Martin will perform the systems development and maintenance.

"These three performance contracts, which develop, implement and maintain INS systems, are the workhorses of Stars and will impact every aspect of INS' mission, from law enforcement to naturalization and customer service," INS Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Wyrsch said in a statement last week. A source familiar with the Stars program said CACI International Inc. and Keane Federal Systems had been contenders for the contracts awarded last week.

A contract for independently verifying and validating systems work will be awarded before the end of the year to one vendor and will cover about 10 percent of the contract's value.

The new Stars program at INS replaces the $295 million Information Technology Partnership contract that was awarded in August 1994 to a single vendor, EDS Corp., which was expected to assemble its own team of subcontractors.

David Goldberg, deputy associate commissioner for information resources management at INS, said he believes the STARS procurement process represents a "more mature" approach to operating and maintaining INS systems. "There's the old-school style of contract—- an umbrella—- and then there's the other favorite: a whole slew of contractors," Goldberg told FCW last month when the first of the contracts was awarded. "We're trying to capture the best of both worlds."

Under Stars, SAIC will act as the manager of work performed by the other three contractors. Those three contractors, in what INS calls the "performance" lot, will compete against one another for task orders, Goldberg said.

Despite the hybrid contracting approach with Stars, some observers of the program believe it may be another case of an agency creating an outdated, large-scale program when its requirements might be met by existing contracting vehicles.

"I'm not saying [these contracts are] a farce, but there are too many of them out there today," said Richard Mackey, president of Reston, Va.-based procurement consulting firm Capital Reps LLC. "They could cancel them all today, and there's a way for an agency to buy pretty much anything they want."

Mackey said vehicles such as the General Services Administration schedule, blanket purchase agreements and governmentwide contracts offer most of what agencies want from big contracts such as Stars.

But Ann Cohen, EDS vice president for government services, said having a well-defined Stars program allows INS and its contractors to stay focused on program objectives. "What STARS represents is the marriage between the more multiple awards but the need for mission control," she said. "It's still very much program-focused."

INS expects work under Stars to begin in August.

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