Unisys files protest over TSA down-select

Unisys Corp. has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office objecting to being left off the list of finalist bidders for the estimated $2 billion contract for the Transportation Security Administration's Information Technology Infrastructure Program.

The company, based in Blue Bell, Pa., has been lead contractor on the project since its inception in 2002. The new contract is a follow-on to the original work.

Unisys spokesman Brad Bass confirmed that the company filed protests with GAO and with the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition.

The FAA protest was filed because there are some questions about jurisdiction for the contract, said Bass, who declined further comment. TSA was newly created and folded into the Homeland Security Department in 2003; portions of TSA previously were part of the Transportation Department.

The IT infrastructure program contract is one of the largest pending awards in the department. Contractors that qualified for the second phase of bidding are Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and CACI International Inc., as a subcontractor to CSC.

The new contract, which is being awarded through the Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge procurement vehicle, is expected to be awarded in about eight to 10 weeks. Terms of the new contract are not publicly available, but industry estimates suggest a value of $225 million annually, or about $2 billion overall. GAO has until Oct. 15 to resolve the protest.

The IT infrastructure continues work begun under the $1 billion IT Managed Services contract to modernize TSA's networks and infrastructure.

Unisys held the original contract and then won a bridge contract to extend the work through 2008.

The program has been challenging for both Unisys and TSA. In February 2006, DHS' inspector general recommended rebidding the Unisys contract, stating that Unisys had spent the bulk of the funding for the project without completing the work. "TSA spent most of the contract ceiling without receiving many of the contract deliverables critical to airport security and communications," the IG said.

However, TSA and Unisys defended the original contract and performance. TSA awarded Unisys the bridge contract to continue working.

"Unisys is proud of the work and accomplishments we have performed for TSA, and TSA has given us consistently high marks for performance. TSA has said publicly that the issues raised in the inspector general's report had been addressed and that they consider the matter closed," Unisys said in a statement issued last year.

In addition, a congressional inquiry led by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) investigated allegations that Unisys failed to protect the department's networks against hackers and attempted to hide evidence related to those attacks. DHS officials were accused of failing to act on information provided. Unisys said it performed according to protocol and acted in good faith.

In addition, the original contract's structure as a performance-based contract, with built-in flexibility, may have contributed to dissatisfaction, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of the research firm FedSources.

"It typically is very hard for the U.S. government agencies to work with such a high degree of flexibility," Bjorklund said.

He noted that Unisys' protest to the GAO will be one of the first tests of the GAO's new policy to allow bid protests for task orders valued over $10 million.

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