Screen and screen again: Industry sees pitfalls, opportunities in DHS plan to place programs under one office
- By Roseanne Gerin
- Mar 18, 2005
Todd Wiseman of IBM Corp. said the consolidation of screening programs at the Department of Homeland Security will create new opportunities for systems integrators.
Apogen Technologies' Tom Ragland (left), vice president of homeland security, and Paul Leslie, president and chief operating officer. The Springfield, Va., company works on the U.S. Visit and FAST programs for the Department of Homeland Security.
The Homeland Security Department's plan to combine nine major screening and tracking programs into one office is being greeted with both excitement and trepidation by IT contractors.
Some said the plan to establish an Office of Screening Coordination and Operations will create more business opportunities, but others fear the consolidation effort will cost them business.
"There will probably be some IT companies with strong positions right now that think [the new office] is a threat," said Don Vincent, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. and an account manager for the Homeland Security Department.
As proposed in President Bush's fiscal 2006 budget request, the new screening office will fall under the Border and Transportation Security Directorate and will oversee personnel and cargo screening programs, mostly from the Transportation Security Administration. The administration is asking for $847 million for these programs in 2006.
The consolidation is one of two key organizational changes to eliminate redundancies at DHS. The other change would consolidate the department's research and development efforts inside its Science and Technology Directorate.
Under the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations, DHS officials likely will combine programs to eliminate redundancy, which will create new opportunities for systems integrators and other IT companies, some industry officials said.
Among the nine programs that will come under the new office are the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology contract, Secure Flight for domestic passenger prescreening, and Transportation Worker Identification Credential.
DHS officials want to centralize these programs in one office to identify what they have in common and let the programs work more efficiently, said Jim Williams, director of U.S. Visit. Williams testified about the office earlier this month before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on economic security, infrastructure protection and cybersecurity. The office will be responsible for the acquisition and program management of all the screening programs it encompasses, he said.
Shutting down programs
"Reaction among contractors is mixed, though all are watching developments closely," said Tom Ragland, Apogen Technologies Inc.'s vice president of homeland security. Ragland also chairs the shared interest group on homeland protection for the Industry Advisory Council.
As a result of expected consolidations, some redundant programs will be eliminated, and some companies already involved in screening projects will lose out, industry officials said.
"It could be a challenge, because in some cases, they thrive on selling a similar capability several times to different buyers," said Booz Allen's Vincent.
For example, the office plans to combine TSA's Secure Flight domestic passenger screening program and International Flight Crew Vetting and have them share a single system infrastructure. The crew vetting program matches the names of pilots and flight personnel against terrorist watch lists. The Office of Transportation Vetting and Credentialing runs both programs.
Other probable changes could affect current contract holders. For example, the Registered Traveler program eventually will be privatized, said Tom Conaway, managing partner of Unisys Corp.'s homeland security division.
The program, which uses biometric identifiers to speed passengers through airports, is in a pilot phase at five airports and is being tested in Orlando, Fla., as a public-private partnership. Unisys and EDS Corp. run the program.
The Transportation Workers Identification Credential program, which will standardize the credentials transportation workers use to enter secure facilities, likely will be farmed out to state and local governments, Conaway said. Unisys is a subcontractor on the third phase of the TWIC program.
Windows of opportunity
Despite the consolidation or elimination of some programs, industry officials believe new opportunities for both large systems integrators and midsize and small IT companies will arise under the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations. Some said projects would reach more than $1 billion annually under the office from the currently proposed $847 million.
DHS' plans to integrate screening operations under the office would require contractors to provide integration technologies and services, industry officials said.
Consolidating screening programs "will create new opportunities for new investments that the systems integration community and the solutions provider community will participate in ? they'll win their fair share," said Todd Wiseman, vice president of homeland security at IBM Corp.
For starters, several programs to be included in the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations are in their initial phases or pilot modes. For instance, the Registered Traveler program will require increased implementation, applications rollout, personnel training and system maintenance, Wiseman said.
DHS likely will hire a contractor that is not implementing one of its current screening projects to oversee program consolidation under the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations, Vincent said.
The department needs "to have someone there as a counter to step in, in case someone has to come in and redesign something or take over an opportunity and straighten it out," he said.
Additional contracting opportunities may come as DHS upgrades some of its legacy systems that may be drawn in under the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations umbrella. For example, DHS wants to upgrade systems for the Custom and Border Patrol's America's Shield Initiative, which provides electronic surveillance capabilities along the country's northern and southern land borders. But the department will have to keep the legacy system alive while it completes the upgrade, Vincent said.
Updating legacy systems will "offer a lot of opportunities not only for individual systems buys and individual IT solutions buys, but for systems integration and mission impact," he said.
Others said they see opportunities arising from the potential for expanding some technologies across agencies within Homeland Security, as well as for program consolidation.
Companies involved in DHS screening programs "understand the requirements and services that are needed," said Paul Leslie, president and chief operating officer of Apogen Technologies of Springfield, Va., which performs work for U.S. Visit and FAST.
After the office is funded, DHS will appoint a leader and decide on an acquisition approach. As it proceeds, the office will focus on combining common IT screening functionalities, updating legacy systems and making all systems compliant with its underlying enterprise architecture.
These measures are designed to foster more effective data sharing within the department and with other agencies and departments, as well as cut down on DHS' growing budget expenditures, which have been criticized on Capitol Hill.
It is too early to tell which programs will be expanded, condensed or eliminated, DHS' Williams said after his testimony before the House subcommittee.
"First of all, we have to look to achieve the goal of the office, which is to increase mission effectiveness and efficiency," he said. "Then you start the business process, and you look at the underlying systems and data." n
Staff Writer Roseanne Gerin can be reached at email@example.com.
Building one team
DHS' Office of Screening Coordination and Operations will pull together nine programs and contracts, with budgets totaling $847 million. The goal: better coordination and increased efficiency.
The major programs to be gathered under the office are:
U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. Visit)
A system that tracks the entry and exit of foreign visitors to the United States through biometric identification.
A domestic passenger prescreening program that will be piloted in August. It will shift the responsibility for checking passengers against terrorist watch lists from domestic and foreign air carriers to the federal government.
International Flight Crew Vetting
A program that checks cockpit and cabin crew on all inbound and outbound international flights against terrorism watch lists.
Free and Secure Trade (FAST)
A joint U.S.-Canadian screening and clearing initiative for commercial truck drivers to expedite border clearance and reduce delays for pre-approved, low-risk truck drivers, carriers and importers.
Nexus/Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (Sentri)
Northern border and southern border pre-clearance programs, respectfully, for vehicle drivers and their passengers to cross the borders through dedicated lanes and receive expedited inspections.
Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
An integrated, credential-based identity management
program for transportation workers who require unescorted access to secure areas of facilities.
A program that uses biometric technology to verify the identities of passengers at security screening checkpoints at specific airports.
Hazardous Materials Commercial Driver Background Checks
A program that requires threat assessments for all individuals who apply for, renew or transfer a hazardous materials endorsement on their commercial driver's license.
Alien Flight School/Student Background Checks
A program that requires students at U.S. flight schools to prove their citizenship before taking training for planes that weigh 12,500 pounds or less. Foreign flight students must complete a background check process with TSA. The rule also mandates that instructors must take "security awareness training programs," whether or not they train foreign students.
? Roseanne Gerin