TSA preps $1B-plus IT buy

Asked to build an agency from scratch in a matter of months, the Transportation Security Administration in June plans to award a five- to 10-year contract for a nationwide information technology infrastructure that could be worth $1 billion or more, a source said May 14.

TSA is expected to release a draft statement of objectives for the setup of its infrastructure — ranging from data centers to seat management to telecommunications — as soon as May 15, the source said.

Since its creation in November, the fledgling agency has been constructing its organization from the ground up. Its actions have been largely guided by the rules of the Aviation Transportation Security Act, particularly the costly mandate that all checked bags be screened by explosive-detection machines by Dec. 31, Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead testified at a House Appropriations Committee Transportation Subcommittee hearing April 17.

To get the job done, TSA received $2.4 billion for fiscal 2002, and the Bush administration is asking Congress to double the agency's budget for fiscal 2003. Already, TSA has requested $4.4 billion in emergency supplemental funding. And it will likely run out of money by the end of this month, Mead said.

The new IT task order will fall under an existing governmentwide acquisition contract, most likely the Transportation's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement or National Institutes of Health's Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners contract, the source said.

In April, TSA awarded a much smaller, sole-source contract to Unitech Inc. to complete a model for a standard airport technology architecture, which will be rolled out at TSA headquarters and 17 airports, including Baltimore/Washington International, by November.

Under the $16.1 million contract, Unitech also will develop training solutions for the agency.

TSA wants to establish a secure network from headquarters to airports and between airports; that enables capabilities including e-mail, information sharing and training; and that ultimately incorporates surveillance cameras and security equipment, according to Unitech.

"This expanding partnership demonstrates how TSA can successfully collaborate with private industry in developing our organization and carrying out its mission," Pat Schambach, TSA's associate undersecretary for information and security technology, said in a Unitech news release.

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