DHS puts procurement house in order

The Homeland Security Department procurement is losing its baby teeth, moving briskly with border technology, a financial management project and two umbrella procurements on the heels of its recently signed fiscal 2006 appropriations bill. President Bush's signature making the bill law injects funds across the board into many of these projects.

The blossoming of the department's IT procurement projects is a major step in DHS' transformation from a patchwork-quilt collection of 22 agencies to a unified organization with centralized contract control.

Chief Procurement Officer Greg Rothwell said the agency would hire at least 400 new procurement officials in fiscal 2006, and "assimilate them to build a unified culture," at a recent event in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by market analysis firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va.

Expanding its procurement shop will let DHS stop using the services of other federal agencies to buy technology. The new contracting staff will have its hands full, easing DHS away from dozens of legacy contracts to new departmentwide vehicles, such as the $45 billion Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions contract.

The department is looking to replace the Transportation Security Administration's IT managed services agreement with Unisys Corp. TSA officials are negotiating a bridge contract with Unisys to continue providing IT infrastructure and services, even though the original contract expired in August. Unisys has continued to offer services and bill the government under the terms of the first contract.

According to TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley, the bridge contract is intended to ensure continuity of services while DHS transitions TSA to contracts "which will consolidate all of the department's and bureaus' IT requirements," which is expected to go into effect in the next two years.

McCauley said Unisys would have an opportunity to compete for the new DHS contracts.

DHS procurement officials also plan to reshape a major land-border technology procurement. Several officials and vendor executives said the department will rename and remake the America's Shield Initiative project to deploy technology along the borders.

"The ASI concept is alive and well," Rothwell said.

Various DHS procurement specialists inside and outside the government said the agency will rename ASI and fold it into a larger border technology program, possibly to be called the Smart Border Initiative.

Several sources said that major defense contractors are attracted to ASI and its follow-on project because the program involves intensive use of satellite communications.

Meanwhile, DHS still is working to build an enterprise resource-planning project via the Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Effectiveness and Efficiency program, or Emerge2. Department officials would not answer questions about the future of Emerge2, but analysts predicted that DHS soon would issue a task order to BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., within days to resume work on the program. A source within BearingPoint confirmed a new task order was imminent.

BearingPoint effectively had suspended work on the financial management software project after its most recent task order expired.

According to sources, BearingPoint and the Emerge2 office, led by Catherine Santana, will work to deploy the BearingPoint implementation of SAP America's ERP software to two directorates within the department.

BearingPoint and DHS officials did not respond to requests for comments on Emerge2.

Wilson P. Dizard III and Patience Wait are senior writers with Government Computer News. Dizard can be reached at wdizard@postnewsweektech.com, and Wait can be reached at pwait@postnewsweektech.com.

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