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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

TSA reopens bids for IT infrastructure contract

The Transportation Security Administration has decided to reopen discussions with bidders on the agency's large IT infrastructure contract.

That move prompted the Government Accountability Office to dismiss the pre-award protest filed by CSRA, the incumbent on the contract. This was the second pre-award contract filed by CSRA involving the so-called "IMPACT" contract. Estimates put the contract’s value at between $500 million and $1 billion over about 10 years.

CSRA filed its second pre-award protest because TSA had issued so many amendments -- about 14 according to one source -- that it had lost control of the evaluation process.

Those amendments often triggered new discussions with bidders but with so many amendments the discussions were uneven. In other words, the bidders were not being provided with all of the same information.

There also were inconsistencies in what kind of revisions bidders were allowed to submit.

CSRA’s protest was trying to get TSA to address those issues.

TSA will reopen discussions with all the bidders and ask for another round of final proposals. The intention, a source told me, was that a new round of discussions would level the playing field. TSA would get a clean procurement as a result.

But that might not solve all of the problems with this contract, another source said. That is because the problems run deeper than the procurement process.

This source complained that TSA is asking for bids based on out-of-date requirements and don’t take advantage of modern technologies.

The contract essentially is being bid as a fixed-price contract that will be awarded on a low price, technically acceptable evaluation criteria.

At least one of the bidders apparently submitted a bid with very low pricing.

But the problem with this, the source told me, is that requirements in the solicitation do not reflect what TSA needs or wants.

If TSA awards a contract based on the current set of requirements, the winning contractor will almost immediately need to request modifications. And those modifications will allow it to bring in new technology and with it new pricing.

In other words, TSA is conducting a competition that isn’t reflective of what needs to be done.

The best thing is for TSA to take more time and rewrite the solicitation with requirements that reflect the more modern needs of the agency, the source told me.

There is a chance that TSA might do that now but the sources I spoke to aren’t very hopeful.

CSRA, which declined to comment, may have burned a bridge with its customer by filing two pre-award protests.

Most of the other bidders apparently were planning post-award protests if they were unsuccessful.

A source told me that TSA could likely correct the problems with the amendments and discussions in about 30 days. Then there will be a resubmission of final proposals followed by an evaluation. But that means doing nothing about the issue with the requirements.

Even without starting over, TSA is looking at several months before an award is made. And that award will likely kick off more protests even if CSRA decides they have done enough with their two pre-award protests.

So this saga will continue, which as I’ve written in earlier blog posts is kind of a tradition with this contract. It was first awarded to Unisys is 2002 and was known then as the IT Managed Services contract. Unisys then built TSA’s IT infrastructure after the agency was created.

It was called the IT Infrastructure Program when Computer Sciences Corp. (part of what is now CSRA) won the contract after fighting off several rounds of protests by Unisys.

Now it is the IT Management, Performance Analysis and Collaborative Technologies or "IMPACT" contract.

In addition to CSRA, sources said other bidders are CACI International, AECOM, DXC Technologies, and Science Applications International Corp.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:38 AM

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