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TSA's infrastructure contract enters the ridiculous zone

UPDATE: I mischaracterized the Transportation Security Administration's position on the contract. A spokesman told me this morning that the work was halted because there is an ongoing dispute over the jurisdiction to hear the protest. So until that dispute is resolved, TSA has stopped work.

TSA has claimed that the Federal Aviation Administration is the proper authority to hear the protests filed against TSA's award to Computer Sciences Corp. of its $500 million Information Technology Infrastructure Program contract. 

“While there is a question of jurisdiction, the protests were filed under the Competition in Contracting Act and its automatic suspension of contract performance. Therefore, TSA reinstated a stay of performance of the CSC contract on Nov. 17,” a TSA spokesman told me via e-mail.

So let me see if I have this straight: Computer Sciences Corp. wins the contract and starts work immediately because it has a 90-day transition deadline to meet.

Then protests are filed Oct. 13 with GAO by the losing bidders: incumbent Unisys Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. The filings automatically stop work.

On Nov. 10, TSA restarts the work because it says the solicitation explicitly stated that the FAA had jurisdiction. FAA protest rules do not require a stoppage.

Then a week later, something convinces TSA to have a change of heart and stops work again.  It stopped work as I noted in my update because there is a dispute over who has jurisdiction to hear the protest.

(The sound you are hearing is me scratching my head.)

Understandably, all the companies involved are remaining quiet about the reasons for the back and forth. TSA hasn’t had much more to say either, though I’m trying to get more from them and will update what I can.

But what is dismaying is that after all this time – 16 months just between final solicitation and award – you’d think problems like this could be avoided. TSA should have plenty of documentation to quickly refute the protest, I would think. And if they don’t, GAO -- or whoever -- should just as quickly send them back to the drawing board. No need to drag this all out.

The question I've been asked several times in the last 24 hours is: What's going on?

One commenter on yesterday’s story on the second work stoppage said it best: “This entire thing has gotten ridiculous.”


Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 19, 2009 at 7:23 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Jun 15, 2010

Two protests and both sustained. Northrop Grumman, GDIT and Unisys all protested and won. TSA even picked up their legal fees. CSC has hired just about every retired TSA employees. Government ought to seriously look at replacing all senior management at TSA so that CSC can hire all of them and then insource all of them as government employees.

Mon, Apr 19, 2010 RSH

And insourcing is going to fix this? Right.

Sat, Jan 23, 2010 Concerned

With the latest GAO findings, will the government assign a new contract officer who knows how to handle this contract?

Fri, Jan 22, 2010

Government Acquisitions is an unmitigated disaster. PERIOD. This is from someone on the inside who has a ring-side seat. I'm not in Acquisitions. I'm one of their customers. You ought to see what that's like. Acquisition "professionals" are scared ****less, constantly obsessed with the million little rules that FAR imposes while completely missing the forest for the trees. The entire system is a farce. It needs to be completely blown up and started over. And, some common sense and real business principles that honor quality, cost, and cycle time need to be the designed in. They are completely ignored now. It is totally unbelievable.

Fri, Nov 20, 2009 JTS Arlington

Thank you for reporting the facts. Also, the sound you are hearing is the sound of me scratching my head as I wonder why you are trying to drum up some crisis over this. Yes, 16 months seems like a long time. But try to keep in mind the this is a half a billion dollar procurement, so it's not going to be a 125 proposal, and the Fed Gov is waaayyyy short of personnel for evaluating proposals as well as managing contracts. You comment that That "TSA should have plenty of documentation to quickly refute the protest". Huh? Why? Why would they go to the effort to prepare to refute all potential forms of protest in advance of making the award? As a taxpayer, do you want to pay for that time spent? If 16 months seems like a long time to make the award, add the burden of pre-preparing for any kind of potential protest and we're looking at 2 or 3 years. The protests are being made because some bidders concluded that some part of the solicitation process violated the FAR. It's not because they have lawyer friends. If we believe that following the rule of law makes for a better process in business as well as society then we have to avoid sniping critique of those who would insist that the rule of law be followed. Thank you for reporting the facts. But your perspective on the realities of business at this level is too narrow for the kind of editorializing you seem to want to do.

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