One big bird

EAGLE contract gains momentum and could see more than $1B in business during the next year

"The component agencies are starting to use EAGLE to the maximum extent possible.? There is a lot of departmental encouragement to use it." ? Bruce Walker, Northrop Grumman Corp.

Photo by Rick Steele

"There is a lot more activity, so far. EAGLE is providing a great one-stop shop for procurements at DHS." ? Jim Ballard, Perot Systems Corp.

Photo by Rick Steele

Four years after the Homeland Security Department was created, several of its largest procurements are moving forward more gingerly as they encounter setbacks and respond to criticism from a skeptical Congress.

But one huge contracting vehicle, known as EAGLE, is defying that trend.

Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions, a multiple-award contract with 53 winners and a maximum value of $42 billion over seven years, was launched by the department a year ago to consolidate information technology purchasing. After a slow initial eight months, it recently began fulfilling its potential and having a significant impact.

Despite some growing pains and rumblings about its structure, EAGLE seems to be gaining speed. It may pull more programs under its wings in the coming months.

"DHS is getting out the EAGLE procurements quickly and awarding them," said Nancy Peters, vice president of business development overseeing homeland security at CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., an EAGLE contractor. "There is some real momentum, and as DHS gets better at managing procurement and understanding what is needed, I'm very optimistic."

"We are starting to see a lot more activity with EAGLE," said Richard Vlaun, vice president of civilian programs at Dynamics Research Corp., of Andover, Mass., another EAGLE contractor.

Confluence of Factors

Several converging actions are allowing EAGLE to fly. For one, a handful of major IT contracts already have been folded into the contract ? or will be in the coming months ? including IT services contracts at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Transportation Security Administration and Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The two largest pending EAGLE task orders in the near term are both worth hundreds of millions of dollars. One is the Information Technology Networking Operations Virtual Alliance (IT-NOVA), which involves operations, maintenance and program management for several IT infrastructures managed through the CIO's office and could be worth $300 million to $500 million.

The other is the Citizen and Immigration Services Business Systems Transformation, also known as the Transformation Initiative, to update IT services in that agency, estimated at $235 million.

Under DHS requirements, future IT contracts being proposed by its 21 agencies now must be considered for EAGLE.

"'Can I do this on EAGLE?' That is the question continually on their minds at DHS," said Jeremy Potter, senior homeland security analyst at Input Inc., a research service in Reston, Va. "EAGLE is becoming the 'lean-to' contract vehicle."
Contractors involved with EAGLE say its ease of use, simplicity and speed are factors in its favor.

"The component agencies are starting to use EAGLE to the maximum extent possible," said Bruce Walker, vice president, strategic planning for homeland security at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Information Technology unit, based in McLean, Va., an EAGLE contractor. "It is already in place, and there is a lot of departmental encouragement to use it."

Big step for DHS

EAGLE is helping integrate and consolidate IT functions with a common acquisition structure throughout the department, he added. "There are synergies from having things under one acquisition structure. It is a huge step forward that shows maturity in procurements at DHS."

All told, EAGLE is expected to generate at least $1 billion worth of contracting opportunities in the coming year to help establish a common IT architecture, update IT systems and networks, and align IT services. The department awarded EAGLE prime contracts to 25 large companies in June 2006 and 28 small businesses in September. All 53 awardees now are positioned to compete for task orders.

A $1 billion estimated value for EAGLE in the coming year is probably conservative, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president at FedSources Inc., a research firm in McLean, Va. "My sense is that implementation will be slow initially, but eventually it will gain momentum."

Some agencies within DHS may hold back on moving IT projects under EAGLE until they see how other agencies fare with it, and agencies such as TSA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency may lag the most, he added.

But the contract faces some turbulence. Sara Schroerlucke, DHS' EAGLE program manager, moved recently with apparently little or no warning to contract holders. She has joined the Secure Border Initiative procurement team. Michael Smith is now program manager of the Enterprise Solutions Office, which includes EAGLE.

In addition, EAGLE's current structure is stirring concerns about whether small-business owners are being discouraged from participating. Several EAGLE task-order requests for proposals have been issued directly to the vendors rather than being published and distributed widely to the public as has been done with federal contracting proposals in the past. That means small businesses that are not among the prime contractors must rely on the vendors for information about possible teaming opportunities.

"It is hard to get excited about EAGLE unless you are one of the prime contractors," Bjorklund said. "If not, you might be shut out."

Small-business fears

The role of the prime contractors as the sole conduit of task-order information changes the conversations, Potter said. "Right now, if you want access to the RFPs, it is only through the primes. It helps with the speed but not with the visibility."

Smith said that to improve transparency, DHS is posting to its Web site some proposal information on large procurements. Several contractors said the complaints are not significant because there was extensive competition for EAGLE's 25 unrestricted and 28 small-business contracting awards thus far.

A few other small clouds are on the horizon. Even though DHS has posted a procurement forecast for EAGLE, critics say it is vague and without dollar values or in-depth descriptions. More significantly, as Congress continues to increase scrutiny on agency procurements ? which has led to public rebukes of DHS program management of Integrated Deepwater Systems, SBInet and the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, among others ? EAGLE may get caught in a similar snare.

A year ago, Schroerlucke called EAGLE a chance "to help DHS transform its IT acquisitions from a complex, procedure-driven necessity into a strategic management opportunity." That appears to be happening.

"There is a lot more activity, so far," said Jim Ballard, president of Perot Systems Corp.'s Government Services unit, an EAGLE contractor. "EAGLE is providing a great one-stop shop for procurements at DHS."

Staff writer Alice Lipowicz can be reached at alipowicz@1105govinfo.com.

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