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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What if Unisys is right to protest the TSA contract?

With Unisys Corp.’s latest protest of the Transportation Security Administration’s infrastructure contract, the grumblings in the marketplace are getting louder and more critical of the company.

“WAW!” as one commenter said on our website.

And I have to admit part of me thinks Unisys is being a sore loser, and that it should take its lumps and go home.

One of the common thoughts is that because Unisys is the incumbent, it has a financial interest in delaying the transition of the contract to a new prime. The more roadblocks Unisys puts in the way, the longer it has TSA as a customer and the more money it makes.

Damn the taxpayer, Unisys wants to get paid, is a common theme of comments I’ve been receiving. 

But what if the opposite is true? What if Unisys is the hero of this story? What if the company is more Atticus Finch than Simon Legree and is fighting for a noble though doomed cause?

I read the Government Accountability Office Jan. 20 ruling that told TSA to re-evaluate bids. I can’t claim any special expertise, but GAO does make some disturbing claims against TSA, particularly how it evaluated pricing and gave incorrect or misleading information to the losing bidders.

After reevaluating the bids, TSA again picked Computer Sciences Corp. and again Unisys protested

In its brief statement, Unisys says: “We believe the process was not conducted in accordance with the request for proposals and the guidelines GAO issued earlier this year.”

If that is true and TSA is not following the rules, don’t we want Unisys to stand up and cry foul? Isn’t that the right thing to do?

Some in the market say that Unisys’ protests are acts of desperation because the loss of this contract likely will spell the end of Unisys’ federal business. Unisys had $666.3 million in prime contracts in fiscal 2009, so I doubt the loss of the TSA work would wipe out the company.

I guess only time will tell if this is desperation or principle, or something else entirely.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 02, 2010 at 7:23 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 Nouman Virginia

Now that the GAO has denied Unisys's appeal, is this finally the end of the saga?

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 JC

In all wars there are innocent casualties. Whether UNISYS is innocent or not is not the point. The point is we should move on and learn from it.

Sun, Jun 20, 2010 Concerned Tax Payer Outside the Beltway

While the delays cause by the incumbent’s protests should be of a concern to Tax Payers and the Government contractor community and how they approach multi-million dollar contracts in the future, what stands out here is the award/bidding process. I as a concerned Tax Payer find much solace in the protests of Unisys as it applies to all Government agencies and how they award contracts although in this instance it seems to apply to just one agency.

The reason I am posting here is because of the hearings I watched on C-Span and specifically questions asked and statements made by Senator John Thune of South Dakota. I will be paraphrasing but for those concerned about the accuracy of my statements please search; Pistole confirmation hearing Senator Thune.

Senator Thune states that the incumbent has protested this award two times prior to this and these protests were upheld by the GAO. He continues that the most current protest must hold some type of merit because the incumbent was 52 million dollars less than the company the contract was awarded to. In fairness to Mr. Pistole he did state he was not privy to how the award was made and he would should he be confirmed look into this award.

This information should, to even the less knowledgeable of us Tax Payers, raise some major red flags. Either TSA is completely incompetent or there is something rotten in the state of Denmark as it applies to this award. This being government I will side with the former not the latter, but if I were CSC I would be concerned about public perception should any major News agency pick up this story and unfortunately for CSC to most casual observers perception is reality.

In conclusion I would ask this community to please provide this concerned Tax Payer with some rational as to why my observation are off the mark as many here seem to think the incumbent should be quiet and let this award proceed despite all the irregularities.

Thu, Jun 17, 2010 Mark Virigina

RE: "One of the common thoughts is that because Unisys is the incumbent, it has a financial interest in delaying the transition of the contract to a new prime." This statement is no doubt true. That said isn't Unisys' current action akin to "double jeopardy" for TSA and it's user community? How long can the protest process go on? Unisys did not file an Agency level protest, they filed a GAO protext, it was decided, TSA then complied with the ruling. Alas "poor Unisys" still didn't win and get to keep it's flagship franchise onb TSA IT work. Unisys and others including CSC had ample opportunities to present a compelling and compliant offering. Apparently in the end CSC's was the best in the judgement of a large SSEB. It's time to: 1) Award the contract to CSC and start work - this is something that has now been delayed over 12 months and 2) review and change the FAR to prevent this sort of thing from happening and being abused in the future. Right now bidders have just way too many opportunities to question and delay awards, particularly through the protest and appeals process provided them. The result is KO's and SSEB's have to spend way too much time covering their butts and trying to prevent potential protests instead of being able to spend time truly evaluating proposals and conducting meaningful discussions to ensure they can and do select "best value offerings." This is like the healthcare debate, I personally don't have a silver bullet to fix these problems, but I know it's broken and getting worse so something must be changed to try and turn the tide. The number of protests, particularly for major awards just keeps increasing and the grounds for those protests, IMO, sure seem to be getting more and more specious.

Thu, Jun 3, 2010

I do subscribe to the theory that the longer an incumbent stays on the more money they make which is the end game. Take a look at the UIS stock. Almost $39 in late April to $22 today. That is a huge hit and losing their biggest federal contract won't help the bottom line. I don't know their contracts and I agree it shouldn't doom them but it will be a huge blow that will be hard to recover from. To the former Lead Engineer...in the end Unisys, CSC, Lockheed, GD... seem to just top load on managers who barely know technology and engineers like you get the shaft. Common thing I've seen in many big corps.

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