A mail bomb package explodes in a downtown office building in Norfolk, Va. A field team from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service swiftly sets up a communications unit on the scene and relays e-mail updates to Washington as pieces of the package are gathered. Within hours of the explosion, a Richmond, Va., police investigator transmits data to federal authorities giving a background profile of a potential suspect tied to a previous bombing.
U.S. Department of Justice officials say this sequence couldn't happen today. The technology simply isn't there. That's what an upcoming, $200 million contract opportunity called the Justice Consolidated Network is intended to provide.
Vice President Al Gore is expected to feature the network in a speech unveiling new government technologies next month. A federal law enforcement data and video network has been discussed for well over a year, but its potential scope recently expanded to include local and state agencies after Attorney General Janet Reno directed Justice officials to look into it.
"She's asked us to look at this in a much broader context," said Mark Boster, deputy assistant attorney general for information resources management at Justice, "acting in her responsibilities as the nation's chief law enforcer .... The demands on these systems and these networks are that we need these networks to go in multiple directions, not just the locals to the [FBI]."
The RFP date for the program award will likely be no later than Oct. 1, but that contract will cover only the Justice Department's link to the network. Details on expanding that to include other federal, state and local agencies should be released in a year and a half.
Companies expected to be in the hunt for other notable civilian agency contracts represent a who's who of IT: Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., EDS, Digital Equipment Corp., Unisys Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., GTSI and dozens of others.
But the time when one infotech company walked away with a billion dollar prize and doled out smaller shares to eager partners is all but history. These days, the process is more, well, Democratic, with smaller awards going to a slew of winners.
In taking a close look at some of the larger, upcoming contracts being eyed for bid pitches, it's clear that work is still plentiful even if the contracts' price tags don't come with nine zeros.
"The environment has changed," said Olga Grkavac, senior vice president of the systems integration division at the Information Technology Association of America, Arlington, Va. "There are fewer megacontracts with one prime winner dealing with a team of subs. Now you have pressure from Congress to reduce the size of the contracts .... There's a pendulum swinging."
But a glimpse of key civilian agency contracts coming down the pike, based on interviews with government and industry officials and research by Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va., and Input, Vienna, Va., holds out a wide array of lucrative business opportunities for many government contractors.
The Basic Stuff
If the Justice network emerges as Reno envisions, Mayberry-style sheriff's departments will share - with ease and speed - data and e-mail with the highest levels of federal authorities. Federal investigators will be able to set up instant communications stations without delays stemming from the kind of bandwidth limitations that tripped them up after the Oklahoma City federal building bombing in April 1995.
The network was first discussed a year and a half ago after a Price Waterhouse study concluded that establishing a better data and video information system would cut telecommunications costs at the Justice Department by 70 percent.
Federal investigative agencies are already tied into a network, but Boster said it's not robust. He said the contract's relatively low price tag is realistic because much of the infrastructure is in place. He declined to project how much fiscal burden local and state agencies will have to shoulder to tie into the network but indicated the value of doing so would be immense.
"We can't send a secure e-mail message to any law enforcement agency in the country for anything," Boster said. "That's pretty basic stuff."
Possible bidders include Boeing Co., Seattle; AT&T, Basking Ridge, N.J.; and MCI Communications Corp., Washington.
TDPI - Round One
To be contracted by the Internal Revenue Service, the Treasury Distributed Processing Infrastructure program shows how players shift as the rules change.
Those winning TDPI work will provide infotech systems for the IRS and other Treasury departments for tax processing, training and other office administration tasks.
This batch of upcoming, closely clustered awards represents a procurement reform prototype, setting up a de facto infotech shopper's guide for the Treasury Department. A Treasury official said the TDPI work will be split into nine parts, with announcement of the first round of award work expected "any day now." That award will be for database/network servers, work stations, laptops and other POSIX hardware.
Rockville-based NCR Government Systems Corp. was the prime contractor for TDPI's forerunner, a contract worth $1.4 billion over five years ending in June.
Now that procurement reform is well underway, the to-be-awarded, five-year, $1.4 billion TDPI program will be based on a flurry of blanket purchase agreements, which means the Treasury will buy hardware and software from companies off the GSA Schedule.
"This is more a la carte than the whole meal," the Treasury official said.
And NCR officials say what plops on their plate will likely amount to a smaller serving as the company seeks partnerships with prime contract winners. That's because NCR has evolved as well, from a general product approach to one that has focused on better system breakdown-resistant technology.
"We're a completely different company from when we got the contract years ago," said Tim Seute, marketing director for NCR.
Because the IRS deals with Social Security numbers and other sensitive data, companies seeking future work through TDPI must agree to security safeguard requirements in their product. They will also be required to provide products that won't be subject to design snafus linked to the coming of the year 2000.
Possible primes include Digital Equipment Corp., Maynard, Mass.; IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.; and Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas, according to Federal Sources.
FAA's Big Fish
The newest version of the National Airspace System Implementation Support Contract seeks engineering, training and management services in support of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The winning contractor will oversee a program potentially worth $1.34 billion that will support the agency's air traffic, weather and navigation systems.
Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. is the prime contractor for the five-year, $341 million agreement, which runs out in June 1998. Lockheed and eight other companies provide up to 1,000 employees to support this program, one-third of whom work in the Washington area, said FAA's John Romaine, the program manager for NISC.
Although FAA has the right to award the work to a number of companies, Romaine said he expects one prime contractor will be selected by October. A conference for bidders is set for Feb. 12-13 in Seattle, which will include a tour of the Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center. The center is considered an FAA proving ground for new IT
Serving the needs of a program based in North Carolina's Research Triangle, a nearing Environmental Protection Agency systems support contract is expected to total $302 million.
Outsourced work will include data processing, software analysis and development and other support functions. The current contract, also held by Lockheed, runs out at the end of the year.
The RFP date is Feb. 20, although that's subject to change, agency officials say. It will be awarded on a one-year basis, with yearly renewals, and will likely total three to five years.
A Lockheed official said that the upcoming contract may be combined with another outsourced EPA work contract.
NIH's Computer Store
A National Institutes of Health program dubbed the Electronic Computer Store has been a marketing coup for companies such as Chantilly, Va.-based Government Technology Services Inc.
The Electronic Computer Store is now recompeting a $96.8 million contract awarded to 17 vendors in September 1995 and is expected to open bids for what could be $250 million in new PC, laptop, software and other purchases. (The rebid is needed because NIH anticipates hitting the $97.8 million ceiling before the contract expires in September.)
NIH will team with the Department of Energy and an unnamed Department of Defense agency on the recompeted contract for purchasing opportunities and administrative work, boosting its value to more than double the current contract, according to Federal Sources.
|RFP OPPORTUNITIES |
|AGENCY ||SYSTEM ||EXPECTED RFP DATE ||ESTIMATED VALUE ||DESCRIPTION |
|Defense Information Systems Agency ||Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) Transmission Services Pacific ||March 1997 ||$2 billion ||Support digital voice, data and video services with encryption capabilities |
|Defense Information Systems Agency ||(DISN) Transmission Services Europe ||March 1997 ||$1 billion ||Support digital voice, data and video services with encryption capabilities |
|National Imagery and Mapping Agency (formerly Defense Mapping Agency) ||Digital Production System ||March 1997 ||$500 million ||Migration from legacy to open systems |
|Department of Defense ||Defense Medical Information Management/Systems Integration, Design, Development, Operations and Maintenance Services II (D/SIDDOMS II) ||August 1997 ||$1.5 billion ||Support health information management systems |
|Treasury/Internal Revenue Service ||Treasury Distributed Processing Infrastructure ||None announced ||$1.4 billion ||Provide infotech systems for IRS and other Treasury bureaus |
|Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration ||National Airspace Station Implementation Support Contract ||April 1997 ||$1.34 billion ||Provide engineering, training, management services and other support for FAA systems |
|Environmental Protection Agency ||Not identified ||February 1997 ||$302 million ||Systems support, based at EPA campus at Research Triangle, N.C. |
|Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health ||Electronic Computer Store ||None announced ||$250 million ||Provide PCs, laptops, peripherals, software, operating systems and other warranty service |
|Justice ||Justice Consolidated Network ||None announced ||$200 million ||Data and video telecommunications services |
|Sources: Input and Federal Sources |