Customs increases collaboration with $1B in IT spending at stake

Customs and Border Protection's IT office is using more requests for information and other methods to get ideas from vendors in advance of a procurement, officials said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Information and Technology expects to move forward on a number of large IT acquisitions over the next two years while also seeking to improve collaboration, agile development, cybersecurity and innovation, officials said today.

One of the technology office’s new policies is that most acquisitions now begin with a request for information to seek input from vendors before making a final decision on the acquisition approach.

“Tell us what we don’t know,” Charles Armstrong, deputy commissioner for the technology office and CIO, said at the office’s Industry Day today. The vendor event was held in conjunction with the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Homeland Security conference.

Armstrong urged vendors to take the time to offer their ideas in response to the RFIs and not to underestimate opportunities at the agency.

“While we are in the middle of budget cuts, we do spend $1 billion a year,” Armstrong said. “We are not trivial, just challenged.”

Mike Sade, director of acquisitions for CBP, assured attendees that small-business feedback to RFIs would help in determining an acquisitions approach.

“Believe me, we want to use small businesses,” Sade said. “In responding to the RFIs, we can see if we can carve out a small-business acquisition.”

Linda Jackstra, executive director of Cargo Systems Programs, said her unit is looking for vendors who are ready to deliver results.

“You need to come to us at the ready with the tools, processes and experience with agile and iterative methods,” Jackstra said. “I’m trying to turn around the Titanic on a dime. We need real experience to get it done quickly.”