Vendor-friendly Web site coming to DHS

The Homeland Security Department (DHS) will soon unveil a new Web site for vendors to submit ideas, technologies and solutions to the department as it boosts efforts to help businesses — large and small — get their solutions in front of the agency.

The site will allow vendors to submit information on their areas of expertise and their products. Steve Cooper, DHS chief information officer, described the site as a "first step."

"It's not perfect because at the moment, it's kind of a one-way input," Cooper said at the FOSE conference April 8 in Washington, D.C.

But there is already a database on the back end waiting to receive and categorize information, and both the site and system will continue to evolve, he said.

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, agencies that now make up the department have been struggling to figure out how to collect and access all the ideas and solutions from the information technology community and get the best solutions for the best price.

Cooper's office has already released several requests for information and will soon release a request for proposals for help with enterprise architecture work, he said.

Nevertheless, vendors complain that it is nearly impossible to get an audience with anyone from the new department.

"I've been trying to contact the Homeland Security Department for a meeting since last November," said LaTonya Barton, president of Waldorf, Md.-based Kingdomware Technologies Inc., a small 8(a) business that is veteran-owned.

Her company sells a Web-based alert system that would make it easier for federal, state and local authorities to send out an emergency notification in the event of a terrorist attack. DHS can change its alert level, but it depends on the media to get out the word that there is a heightened terrorist threat.

Kingdomware's system "pops up on a screen, and it provides custom alerts," Barton said. "Our system allows [DHS] to send messages to the entire nation or one state or an entire county or one town."

But Barton, like other vendors, reports she has been bounced from agency to agency, never able to get a meeting to demonstrate her product.

In his speech April 8, Cooper acknowledged that there are many interesting tools and applications that the private sector is using, but the government has not tapped them.

That may soon change with the new Web site and a new DHS office that is committed to promoting small and disadvantaged businesses and that reports directly to Gordon England, deputy secretary of the department.

Ashley Lewis, who is in charge of acquisition transition at DHS, said that the office's leader has not been chosen, but DHS is committed to helping small and disadvantaged businesses get a foothold.

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