DOT contract opens door to cool tech

The Transportation Department last week launched a seven-year, $980 million program to which federal, state and local agencies can turn for help when developing projects involving state-of-the-art technology.

The Specialized Technical and Technology User Services (STATUS) program includes more than 100 contractors available to provide services in four technical areas: geographic information systems, artificial intelligence, wireless technology, and e-learning and learning management systems.

The technologies "have come into government circles in a big way only in the last few years," said Steve Sill, STATUS program manager in the department's Transportation Administrative Service Center (TASC). Unlike more established fields, government agencies "may not know what kind of marketplace there is" for such services, he said.

Agencies can ask companies to compete for task orders to work on specific projects or for general consulting before a project begins. The program also includes operational maintenance support contractors to provide services on existing systems.

STATUS is a follow-up of sorts to a DOT program known as Value Added Niche Information Technology Services, which involves more than 200 contractors in 11 "niches" such as e-commerce, messaging, systems migration and assistive technology.

VANITS, a seven-year program launched in August 2000, still has a long way to go. But customers have been asking for services in these areas, which involve a fair number of companies. Rather than stretch VANITS, TASC officials decided to launch a new vehicle, Sill said.

Both programs include a mix of large services companies, such as Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. and TRW Inc., and smaller, more specialized firms, such as Traffic.com Inc. for wireless highway technology and GP e-Learning Technologies Inc.

Cylab Inc., a Falls Church, Va.-based 8(a) firm with 25 employees, was awarded contracts for geographic information systems and artificial intelligence, as well as operational maintenance.

There is significant demand for the technologies in the government market, and this program provides a quick way for agencies to get projects under way, said Jim Kingsbury, STATUS program manager for Cylab. "The government doesn't want to employ an [artificial intelligence] expert on a full-time basis. The thing is to hire a contractor," he said.

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