Unisys awaits final approval after winning $1 billion TSA prize

Unisys Corp. took a big step in its quest to be a major player in the government information technology market when it was selected Aug. 2 as the winner of the $1 billion Transportation Security Administration IT Managed Services contract.

But the Blue Bell, Pa., company isn't popping champagne corks yet. The contract hasn't been officially awarded because the project is still being reviewed by the new Homeland Security IT Investment Review Group. Approval from the review group is expected this week, a TSA spokesman said.

The review is required under an Office of Management and Budget memo temporarily freezing new IT spending by the agencies that will be consolidated under the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Conaway, Unisys' managing principal, defense, cautioned that people should "not get the cart before the horse. We've been notified we've been selected, but we don't have a contract yet." The notice of award simply means that of the proposals TSA received, the agency would choose Unisys. But the contract has not been awarded because the money is not there yet.

Unisys is leading a team with three tiers of subcontractors. IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., and DynCorp of Reston, Va., are major partners; another 17 companies are designated as alliance partners, with six other firms as technology partners. Conaway said the list of subcontractors can be expanded as needed.

Under the contract, the Unisys team will provide TSA with IT and telecommunications services, including hardware and software services, help desk, network security and business process reengineering support.

"This selection? is great news for Unisys, a company that has been very anxious to get back full-force into the federal market," said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting with Federal Source Inc., a McLean, Va. market research firm. "It's a very strategic selection for them, because here is the agency that's probably going to be the foundation for the new Department of Homeland Security, and getting the IT infrastructure right is going to be important for TSA."

The group reviewing the contract was created in July, when the Office of Management and Budget announced a freeze on IT spending for any projects over $500,000 by agencies slated for inclusion in the new Department of Homeland Security. The intent of the freeze and review is to identify and eliminate redundant projects and create an interoperable environment for the different agencies in the new department.

The review group is comprised of the chief information officers of TSA, Coast Guard, INS, Customs Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and departments of Treasury, State and Justice, with leadership provided by OMB and the Office of Homeland Security.

Unisys and TSA representatives will probably make their case Aug. 8 before the review group. "We hope to have approval by late this week," a TSA representative said.

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