Protests delay Eagle small-biz awards
SBA office reviews multiple protests; how big is small?
- By Ethan Butterfield
- Sep 15, 2006
The small-business community is still awaiting official word from the Homeland Security Department on who won its $45 billion enterprise IT support services contract, but that hasn't stopped rumors and lists of potential winners from circulating.
Homeland Security officials notified the winning and losing small-business bidders of the agency's Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge IT support services contract, known as Eagle, during the week of Aug. 25. A five-day grace period to allow for protests followed. As of press time, however, DHS has made no public announcement of the winners.
Homeland Security officials claim that they must get final approval from the Small Business Administration before releasing a list of awardees. The Eagle contract is for five years with two one-year options and is estimated to be worth $45 billion.
The contract, along with DHS' five-year, $3 billion, small-business set-aside contract FirstSource, is intended to help the agency establish a common IT architecture. Awards for FirstSource also have been delayed and are anticipated later this fall, according to DHS officials.
Eagle has two segments: one for full-and-open competition and one restricted to small companies. The agency in June notified the 25 unrestricted winners, which included such federal IT contracting powers as Accenture Ltd., EDS Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.
DHS and SBA officials acknowledge that multiple size-standard protests have been filed on the small-business awards. According to SBA spokeswoman Tiffany Clements, the Government Contracting Office is investigating the protests.
SBA's Office of Hearings and Appeals often handles size-standard protests in which losing bidders question awardees' small-business status. But so far that has not happened, Clements said. Members of the Office of Government Contracting declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.
"Once somebody files a protest, the Government Contracting Field Office has to do an investigation, they have to follow up. It's still in that mode," she said.
Clements would not say how many protests were filed or who filed them, nor would she say how many awards were made to small companies.
DHS and SBA officials said it would be at least another two weeks before an official announcement was made.
But more than one list has been circulating through the small-business community, and market research firm FedSources Inc., McLean, Va., on its Web site has published a list it claims was pulled directly from the pre-award notices from Homeland Security.
FedSources' pre-award lists name 32 companies over five functional areas of the contract, with several winning in multiple areas.
Neither DHS nor SBA officials would comment on the companies that FedSources named.
Washington Technology also received a list of winners and contacted six of the companies, all of which appeared on FedSources' list, but none would confirm that they had won the contract.
Protests over such a large contract are standard, and SBA is taking time to resolve the size-standard protests to keep them from arising again once final awards have been announced, said Ray Bjorklund, FedSources senior vice president and chief knowledge officer.
Eagle could be a boon to a small-business awardees, especially one that wins the right to bid for task orders in multiple categories, Bjorklund said. Homeland Security spending is likely to increase annually by several percentage points over the next few years, and companies on the Eagle contract will be in position to ride that growth, Bjorklund said.
"It's probably going to mean 2 to 5 percentage points growth in that kind of business for those companies," he said.
As Homeland Security continues to integrate its 22 component agencies, small-business winners of Eagle will be an integral part of the process, said Guy Timberlake, chief visionary officer of the American Small Business Coalition, a Columbia, Md., advocacy group.
DHS is "a big organization, a beast," Timberlake said. "As [DHS] starts fitting into its own skin and operates as a synergistic entity, there's a significant amount of opportunity for anyone associated with Eagle."
But small companies may already be falling behind their counterparts in Eagle's large-business track, which has already been awarded.
Homeland Security officials claim that no awards have been made on the unrestricted track. But industry officials, as well as an executive from Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., McLean, Va., a winner in the full-and-open category, told Washington Technology that they already have seen two Eagle task orders, one for infrastructure work and one for management support services.
Whether or not task order awards have moved forward, Eagle work is just starting and more is expected shortly, said Ron Hodge, vice president of homeland security business with Booz Allen Hamilton.
"We expect more task orders to come out after the start of the fiscal year," Hodge said.
Small-business set-aside task orders will start rolling out soon after the small-company awardees are publicly announced, Homeland Security officials said.
"They're looking at small-business set-asides already," said DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie. "As they're doing these final processes, they're already looking at what kinds of needs in the future will meet the small-business set-aside requirements."
Staff Writer Ethan Butterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.