NSA tries to open contracting door

The National Security Agency wants to help more companies win its contracts, so NSA wants to reduce the time it takes to issue security clearances and help more small companies do business with the top secret agency.

The time it takes for contractors to obtain security clearances has been an obstacle for businesses, so NSA is supporting a move in Congress to reduce the average number of days to get a clearance from the current 207 to 120 by the end of the next fiscal year, said Harry Gatanas, the agency's senior acquisition executive. He spoke yesterday about NSA's acquisition's strategy at a briefing for the media and state and local government officials.

"The business of sponsoring industry and reaching out to industry is something we take very seriously, and we need to fix those things," Gatanas said, referring to the lengthy security clearance process.

NSA expects its spending to double between now and fiscal 2009, Gatanas said. Although the agency does not publicly disclose its budget, around 85 percent is spent on IT, he said.

NSA is employing contractors by the "tens of thousands," and wants to woo more small businesses, such as women- and minority-owned companies with innovative technologies to broaden its technology base, Gatanas said.

The agency expects to issue four major requests for proposals during the next six to eight months, including:

  • Trailblazer, a legacy data migration project, to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2005

  • Cryptologic Mission Management, to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2005

  • Rebuilding Analysis, an integrated analytic environment project, to be awarded in the third or fourth quarter of fiscal 2004

  • Technical SIGINT Information Factory, an archive and support information management system, to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2005

NSA has added new companies to its mix of contractors over the last four years by holding technology expositions, bimonthly business meetings for small businesses and conferences for underutilized businesses. It also offers an online business registry, created in August 2001, as a market research tool and a means for firms to be considered for upcoming contracts or subcontracts. Currently 2,690 companies are registered.

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