TSA launches mega IT buy

The Transportation Security Administration last week released a statement of objectives for its much-anticipated billion-dollar acquisition to build the fledgling agency's information technology infrastructure from the ground up.

According to the statement, the task order, called Information Technology Managed Services (ITMS), will cover the full range of IT and telecommunications services that support desktop management, enterprise architecture development, cybersecurity and related operations.

"It is well understood that meeting the [IT] 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, enterprisewide [IT] managed services solution to assist TSA in meeting its responsibilities under federal legislation and executive orders."

The ITMS contractor "is assisting us in standing up the agency first and foremost," said the ITMS contracting officer.

A key component of ITMS is managed services, a relatively new procurement strategy in which an agency pays a company for technology solutions that meet a particular problem, rather than simply buying products and services.

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."

President Bush established TSA in November when he signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which mandated improvements in securing the nation's transportation systems. Since then, the new agency has been constructing its organization from scratch.

"It's one of the first really sizable IT opportunities that has at its core a homeland security mission," said Allen Shay, president of Teradata, a data warehousing division of NCR Corp. "It really begins to address this information integration, knowledge management that everyone has been talking about since Sept. 11."

Some of the biggest challenges for TSA and the ITMS contractor will be IT security, interoperability and timing issues, industry observers say. "The speed is going to be a big issue here," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc., speaking about building the infrastructure. "Part of the problem is this is a very dynamic environment. You'll be designing an infrastructure before the user community is in place."

The statement of objectives came 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.

"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.

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 applications or software development services through separate task orders.

TSA officials plan to award ITMS using the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement II contract. The award will be made under two of the contract's functional areas: Information Systems Engineering and Systems Operations and Management.

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Express delivery

The Information Technology Managed Services task order, which will provide the Transportation Security Administration with desktop computers and other components of a core IT infrastructure, is expected to be awarded within six weeks.

The major milestones:

* Issue request for task order technical proposal — June 13

* Issue request for cost proposal — June 17

* Due diligence period — June 18-28

* Task order technical proposals due — July 1

* Task order cost proposals — July 8

* Oral presentations — July 11-12

* Task order award — July 25

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