TSA scolded by Obama for $1.2B Lockheed award

President-elect Barack Obama is scolding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for its award four months ago of a $1.2 billion human resources support contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. At the same time, Obama pledged to work for collective bargaining rights for TSA employees.

The TSA should have allowed agency employees to compete for the work, Obama wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

“This year, TSA gave an enormous $1.2 billion sole-source contract for human resources services without regard to the rules that require them to allow current TSA employees to compete for that work,” Obama wrote. “As president, I will make sure that the documented waste and mismanagement at TSA is subject to the same rules regarding contracting as other federal agencies.”

In response, Lockheed Martin officials said they won the TSA contract through competition and it was not sole sourced.
“Lockheed Martin competed for the contract against several bidders, including the incumbents, in a year-long technical and cost competition,” Joseph Wagovich, a Lockheed Martin spokesman said in a statement. “Since TSA’s inception in 2002, these services have always been managed by a private-sector company, operating under the supervision and direction of Federal employees. The award streamlines HR contracts managed by the previous three contractors."    

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will help manage employee payroll, recruitment and hiring, personnel and payroll processing, employee benefits, workforce management and other human resources functions for the 40,000-employee agency. The  work had been performed by three contractors in the past. The Lockheed  Martin contract is valued at $1.2 billion over eight and a half years.

Avue Technologies Corp. protested the contract July 31 to the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Aviation Administration. Avue alleged that TSA did not follow procurement rules, including proper evaluation of pricing, and did not appropriately consider the merits of a federal line of business credential in the decision. The GAO said in August it would not consider the protest because it was not under its jurisdiction.

The union criticized the contract award shortly after the contract was signed.

“There is absolutely no reason to contract out this work,” AFGE President John Gage said July 18. “TSA already has fully functional human resources. Why would they pay a contractor to do work that already is being done in-house?”

Obama, in his letter to the AFGE, also said he would work to ensure collective bargaining rights for TSA employees, writing, “Advocating for Transportation Security Officers to receive collective bargaining rights and workplace protections will be a priority for my administration.“It is unacceptable for Transportation Security Officers to work under unfair rules and without workplace protections – this makes it more difficult for them to perform their jobs.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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