SBInet trawls for small-business partners

When Boeing won the Homeland Security Department’s SBInet contract last month, the giant defense and technology contractor said it was opening the door for small and disadvantaged businesses to share in a project potentially worth $2.5 billion or more. The project, if it succeeds, will close the country’s borders to potential terrorists and illegal immigrants.

Boeing’s winning proposal for the Secure Border Initiative calls for creating what DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff called “a 21st-century virtual fence,” a network of 1,800 towers 80 feet to 200 feet high along the United States’ northern and southern borders. They will have cameras, motion detectors and other electronic devices to locate and track intruders attempting to cross into the United States illegally.

In announcing Boeing’s selection, Chertoff said the initial indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract is worth $67 million and requires Boeing Integrated Defense Systems to construct a surveillance system along a 28-mile border strip near Tucson, Ariz., within three years.

Chertoff also addressed the concerns of lawmakers who fear DHS cannot manage such a large contract.

“One of the critical requirements that we laid down in this process of procurement was the government always had to have control of the driver’s seat,” Chertoff said. “We have a partner here. We look forward to working with the partner.”

Wayne Esser, director of advanced systems and security at Boeing, leads the SBInet project. He said Boeing has put together a team of nine partners, including the Centech Group, a small information technology solutions company based in Arlington, Va., that is working with DHS’ Customs and Border Protection.

That’s only the initial group of partners. In its statement announcing the contract win, Boeing pledged to “issue subcontracts to many additional companies, including small and minority-owned businesses, to bring the best available solutions to SBInet.”

Boeing formed a group of core contractors as part of its proposal.

Esser said he expects small businesses to account for at least 40 percent of the overall subcontractor team.

“We’ll be doing a tremendous amount of subcontracting on this opportunity as we go forward,” he said. “As much as we can, we will look for opportunities to make our procurements set aside for small and disadvantaged businesses.”

Boeing is not limiting the types of technology small businesses can offer the project. “Everything from tactical infrastructure to sensor technology, cameras and camera technology,” he said. “We’re not limiting them. It’s just a question of what kind of capabilities are out there.”

Esser said Boeing’s Supply Management and Procurement organization will help recruit small and disadvantaged businesses. SMP has “a huge database of companies that we maintain for this purpose. We’re adding to it daily, as you can imagine. My phone has been ringing off the wall,” he said.

Guy Timberlake, president of the American Small Business Alliance, said his organization will approach Boeing on behalf of the members.

But Chris Jahn, president of the Contract Services Association, cautioned small businesses against thinking of SBInet as an immediate windfall. DHS is going to implement the project slowly, he said.

“I think they’re going to make Boeing prove itself before they commit huge sums of money,” Jahn said.

SBInet “is so politically sensitive right now that DHS can’t afford to fail,” he added. “So it remains to be seen what the small-business opportunities are going to be.”

Esser said that in determining its small-business partners, Boeing will focus more on competitive procurement than on the cost of the technology being purchased.

“We hope the market will bring us the best value,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily always mean the lowest price. You have to look at cost/performance parameters.”

Value is important, he added, “and if you can get better value at a higher price, then it’s worth it.”

Some small businesses might come from Boeing’s alliance with the Chesapeake Innovation Center, a technology incubator in Annapolis, Md.

“We’ve been working with them now for a couple of months,” Esser said. “We will start aggressively looking at their stable of companies they work with, looking for new technologies that maybe are not fully developed yet. We’ll look at how we can accelerate that development.”

Environmental technology providers could also play a role. The surveillance towers will have to be configured to accommodate environmental concerns, especially in urban areas where aesthetics and environmental effects are issues, Esser said.

Despite SBInet’s large size, it is the type of project in which small businesses can do well, said Bob Guerra, of Guerra Kiviat, a government contracting consulting firm.

“It’s not like having to design a big mainframe computer or get a bunch of drones in the air to fly across the border,” he said. “It’s a management and process solution, and small businesses have a major contribution to make.”

But even as Boeing begins to build its team, some security experts have expressed doubts about the project. Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at Counterpane Internet Security, a managed security company in Mountain View, Calif., said SBInet can’t close all 6,000 miles of borders.

“My guess is it’s going to be more of a waste [of money] than a success,” Schneier said. “Securing our borders is just not going to happen.”

Boeing builds its team

Boeing recently won the Homeland Security Department’s SBInet contract and named its core team of contracting partners.

They are:

  • Centech Group, Arlington, Va.

  • DRS Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, Palm Bay, Fla.

  • Kollsman, an Elbit Systems of America company, Merrimack, N.H.

  • L-3 Government Services, Washington, D.C.

  • L-3 Communication Systems West, Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Lucent Technologies, Murray Hill, N.J.

  • Perot Systems, Plano, Texas.

  • Unisys Global Public Sector, Reston, Va.

  • USIS, Washington, D.C.

  • Source: Boeing
    X
    This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
    Accept Cookies
    X
    Cookie Preferences Cookie List

    Do Not Sell My Personal Information

    When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

    Allow All Cookies

    Manage Consent Preferences

    Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

    Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

    If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

    Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

    Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

    If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

    Save Settings
    Cookie Preferences Cookie List

    Cookie List

    A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

    Strictly Necessary Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Functional Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Performance Cookies

    We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

    Sale of Personal Data

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

    Social Media Cookies

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

    Targeting Cookies

    We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.