TSA begins $1B IT services buy

The Transportation Security Administration released a statement of objectives June 13 for its much anticipated billion-dollar acquisition to develop the agency's information technology infrastructure.

TSA will award IT managed services (ITMS) under the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement II (ITOP II) contract.

ITMS covers the full range of IT and telecommunications services supporting desktop management, enterprise architecture development, cybersecurity and related operations.

"It is well understood that meeting the information technology requirements of a newly formed, highly dynamic organization represents an enormous task," TSA officials wrote in the document. The agency "requires a world-class contractor to provide a comprehensive, enterprise-wide [IT] managed services solution to assist TSA in meeting its responsibilities under federal legislation and executive orders."

President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in November establishing TSA and mandating improvements in securing the nation's transportation systems. Since then, the agency has been building its organization from the ground up.

TSA is "trying to buy the heads, not the seats," said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a support contractor to TSA. "IT is not the product. IT is the enabler."

The statement of objectives comes a week after Bush unveiled his proposal for a Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department, which would house several existing agencies including TSA.

"Despite what the Homeland Security Department is going to look like in the future, TSA is something new," said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc. "This is the time to build an intelligent architecture. They've got a clean sheet to work with.

"People should probably be watching closely to see what TSA does because [it's] in a position to create a model for the way IT should be put in place and managed," he continued.

TSA is looking to create a partnership with the ITMS contractor.

"The team that can solve this one is going to be well positioned for solving many federal networking and IT requirements," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. "There are a lot of aspects of this [proposal] that reflect the broader emerging needs across government.

"It's significant that they're purchasing this as a managed service as well," he continued. "It reflects a trend in government."

The potential seven-year task order will be performance-based with a base period of three years and two optional two-year add-ons.

"I'm pleased they've got the performance-based objectives because that's what it's all supposed to be based on now," Bjorklund said. "Where are those real applications? That's what we're curious about."

TSA has reserved the right to acquire application software or software development services through separate task orders.

Down the road, the ITMS contractor will face IT security, timing and interoperability issues, industry observers said.

Cost proposals are due July 8, and an award is expected July 25.

"It gives them a unique opportunity," Mather said. "They're chomping at the bit here. They don't have to deal with all the legacy systems."

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