Contractors win big at USAID

A recent stream of contracts has opened doors for companies

The U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded a steady stream of large-scale information technology contracts in the past several months, capping the run with the recent award of a multivendor deal potentially worth $4 billion.

USAID isn’t typically associated with projects of that magnitude, but systems integrators now provide a range of services for the agency, from consulting to help-desk support.

The string of deals started in July 2005, when the agency awarded its $90 million Principle Resources for Information Management Enterprisewide (PRIME) 3.1 management consulting-oriented blanket purchase agreement (BPA). Then, in September, it awarded a $77 million contract to an international consortium of companies that will build a system to distribute pharmaceuticals to people with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman IT are among the contractors involved.

This month, SRA International landed a $125 million BPA to provide IT and advisory services to USAID’s Office of Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade. Also this month, the agency awarded a five-year, $4 billion PRIME 3.2 BPA to five integrators: AT&T, Computer Sciences Corp., Northrop Grumman IT, ManTech International and SRA.

Market observers attribute the recent activity to two factors: an ongoing push to integrate, where appropriate, USAID’s and the State Department’s IT infrastructures, and the “transformational diplomacy” initiative that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced earlier this year.

USAID and State want to create more integrated management structures, according to their strategic plan. Centralized IT and communications, meanwhile, help support transformational diplomacy, which seeks to advance democracy worldwide.

The PRIME 3.2 award program can help USAID and State improve efficiency in their infrastructure, said Dale Luddeke, vice president of national security and foreign affairs at CSC’s Federal Sector Enforcement, Security and Intelligence Division.

James Krouse, director of public-sector market analysis at Input, said he views PRIME 3.2 as consistent with “consolidation and centralization efforts in the name of the federal enterprise architecture.” USAID’s approach, he added, is one that “many of the other agencies are gravitating toward as well.”

PRIME 3.2 covers IT operations and maintenance support services, communications operations and support services, customer support services, and systems integration support services.

The agency’s IT contracting activity appears set to continue. Pending procurements include PRIME 3.3, which Krouse described as an $850 million pact with an IT security slant, and the International Governmental Integrity and Anti-Corruption Technical Assistance program, a $500 million initiative.

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