DHS releases Secure Border RFP

The long-awaited request for proposals for Secure Border Initiative-Net was released today by the Homeland Security Department, which is calling the project the "most comprehensive effort in the nation's history" to gain control of the borders.

The 144-page document outlines the purpose and scope of the border surveillance technology program, which supplements other efforts to control the border and enforce immigration laws.

"Adding agents at the border is insufficient unless we also can give them the technology they need and unless we contain and remove the aliens they catch," states the work statement drawn up by Customs and Border patrol.
Under the contract, the system must detect entries when they occur, identify the entries, classify the level of threat for the entry, and "effectively and efficiently respond to the entry," the statement said.

The SBI-Net contract will be indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity with performance-based task and delivery orders. It will be for a three-year base period with three one-year options.

The request for proposals was initially scheduled to be released March 31.

At the same time, the department expects to meet a congressional request to prepare an overall strategy for immigration policy enforcement and border security by the end of April. Once the strategy is complete, the agency in June will begin to create an operational plan with supporting metrics, Gregory Giddens, SBI-Net program manager told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security on April 6. It should all be done by September, when DHS intends to award the SBI-Net contract, he said.

"We have been charged with creating a strategy ? but it does not stop there," Giddens said. "We have to take that strategy and turn that into programs, and tasks, and metrics and milestones, so that we can have accountability." Through that, he said, the agency will create a framework "that allows us to, collectively, make well-informed investment and policy decisions."

The subcommittee is considering the Bush administration's fiscal 2007 request for $1.3 billion for Secure Border, which includes $100 million for the SBI-Net technology component. The goal of Secure Border is to obtain operational control of the borders with enhanced enforcement, surveillance, more personnel and better integrated operations.

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), who chairs the subcommittee, said he wants to see a strategic plan for Secure Border before approving the funding.

"How do you know that items such as $100 million in technology and $51 million in desert tactical infrastructure are needed, when you have yet to put into place an SBI resource plan or award the primary SBI contract?" Rogers asked. "Without seeing your strategic plan, how do we know that this $1.3 billion is the right investment and not just another money pit? When presented with questions like this, we apply a simple formula: No plan equals no money," Rogers said.

Rogers also said the government has spent millions on "elaborate border technology that, eventually, has proven to be ineffective and wasteful," such as the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System and America Shield Initiative. "How is the SBI not just another three-letter acronym for failure?" he asked.

Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) wants more strategic information about how Secure Border would operate and how it will avoid the contracting problems of the past.

"Money isn't the only issue. There are complex policy and technical issues here that require expert leadership and well-thought programs on top of significant resources," Sabo said, adding that the budget request may be "just a drop in the bucket compared to what will be needed."

Three federal contractors ? Ericsson Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. ? have confirmed that DHS has qualified them to bid on the SBI-Net contract. Industry sources said Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. also have been judged as qualified.

The SBI-Net surveillance technology is expected to cost about $2 billion overall.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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