TSA taps Unisys for infrastructure pact

Despite budget constraints, the Transportation Security Administration this month tapped Unisys Corp. to begin building its information technology infrastructure.

Pending availability of funds, TSA announced Aug. 2 that it will move forward with its Information Technology Managed Services (ITMS) program — the same day Congress passed an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that cut $1 billion from the $4.4 billion the fledgling agency had requested.

"We didn't get everything we needed, but enough to get by," said Patrick Schambach, TSA's associate undersecretary for information and security technology. The agency will dip into its current pot, then await fiscal 2003 funding, according to Schambach.

"TSA's issues are a little more acute because it's a new agency and it's going through growth pains," said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a support contractor to TSA. "Realistically, the infrastructure has to be put in place. This is a must-pay."

TSA issued a $1 billion statement of objectives for ITMS in June as Congress was wrangling over the supplemental package and hashing out details of the proposed Homeland Security Department.

The Office of Management and Budget eventually froze more than $1 billion in IT projects planned at agencies, including TSA, slated to go into the homeland mix. ITMS was temporarily delayed.

To proceed, according to Schambach, "we had to agree we will put anything with money [attached to it] through an investment review board."

A group, led by OMB and the Office of Homeland Security, will sift through all individual investments valued at more than $500,000, while being mindful of TSA's basic needs. Examples of potential work orders include the rollout of an IT infrastructure at headquarters and airports, and the installation of a server and help desk, he said.

"It's not going to be hard at all," Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for IT and e-government, said of the review process. "This is just basic coordination, business management 101."

"As the program becomes successful, it will require less and less review," Mather said.

Many consider the ITMS task order innovative because of its emphasis on managed services, a relatively new procurement strategy in which an agency pays a company for technology solutions that solve a particular problem.

"The whole focus, of course, is around the mission, which is really what TSA is all about," said Ira Kirsch, president of the U.S. federal government group at Unisys Corp. President Bush established TSA in November 2001 when he signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.

Lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the agency for spending too much. TSA received $2.4 billion for fiscal 2002, and the Bush administration wants Congress to double its budget for fiscal 2003.

Transportation Department Secretary Norman Mineta has defended the agency's fast-paced approach. "Four months ago, we faced making a basic management decision about fulfilling a wartime mission," Mineta said in a recent speech. "Should we slow to a trickle the massive and vital transportation security job ordered by Congress, while we waited for the emergency supplemental? That would have absolutely guaranteed failure in meeting the deadlines imposed by Congress."

In that spirit, TSA is breaking ground with the contract. "I don't think there has been anything normal about this procurement," Kirsch said. "It's one of those few-in-a-lifetime events."

The program's flexibility makes it "the ideal contract vehicle situation from both the government and private side," Schambach said. "We had very good, strong proposals, and it made the decision a very difficult one."

Unisys, which beat out EDS, will team with DynCorp and IBM Corp. This "is just a prime example of how we've grown" from a technology company to a provider of services, consulting and solutions, Kirsch said. "This is about a long-term relationship. We really [will] almost become part of TSA."

***

Information Technology Managed Services program

The Transportation Security Administration released a statement of objectives for its billion-dollar Information Technology Managed Services (ITMS) task order in June.

Highlights of the program include:

* ITMS will cover the full range of IT and telecommunications services that support desktop management, enterprise architecture development, cybersecurity and related operations.

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

* ITMS is being awarded under the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement II contract.

NEXT STORY: OMB calls for joint business cases

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