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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Unisys takes $250M TSA award with 'Stealth' solution

Unisys is finally able to celebrate a $250 million Transportation Security Administration win that is a takeaway from an incumbent.

Unisys first won the five-year Domain Awareness Integrated Network Support Services contract in November. General Dynamics' mission systems business was the incumbent and took its protest to the Court of Federal Claims.

Technically a blanket purchase agreement, TSA wants a platform to integrate data collected from passenger and baggage screening equipment. The platform will provide real-time awareness and risk assessments of cybersecurity threats to the equipment.

General Dynamics argued it should have been picked due to having a better technical score and the fact that price was the least important factor in the competition.

But the price gap was huge between Unisys and GD to the tune of $150 million.

The solicitation required bidders respond to a task order as part of the evaluation for the contract award. Unisys' bid was $30 million versus GD’s of $180.1 million.

Whenever an agency picks a higher priced bidder, it has to explain why the higher price represented best value to the government.

In this case, TSA just couldn’t do it.

“TSA could not identify close to [$150 million] in technical benefits that would justify paying this price premium,” the agency told the court.

Interestingly, GD’s bid was below the government’s estimated value for the contract.

One of GD’s complaints is that technology at the heart of Unisys’ proposal is too risky. Unisys plans to use its Stealth cybersecurity product and touts it in its announcement of the win.

Stealth is what Unisys describes as a “microsegmentation” software that will allow TSA to connect and manage all of its airport screening equipment on the agency’s global network. The technology will secure users, data, applications and systems from cyber threats, Unisys said.

Stealth uses encryption and cloaks the network from external attackers as well as mitigating insider threats, the company said.

GD argued that TSA failed to evaluate the hidden costs and risks of moving to Stealth, which GD claims would require TSA to rewrite how programs access STIP databases. “An error in rewriting the programs that access the STIP database could make the [transportation screening equipment] data inaccessible, thus making security threat trends unidentifiable,” General Dynamics argued.

Venkatapathi “PV” Puvvada, president of Unisys' federal business, defended Stealth in a statement to Washington Technology.

“In this competition, the innovative and disruptive approach Unisys proposed for the TSA was the most significant differentiator,” he said.

TSA acknowledged that there were some concerns with Unisys’ proposal but GD’s arguments didn’t take the whole of the technical solution into account. The court ruled that TSA acted reasonably in describing Unisys’ technical proposal as “acceptable.”

Unisys and TSA argued the agency's concerns with Unisys’ technical proposal only represented “moderate risk.”

And with the huge price differential, the moderate risk was worth taking.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Apr 30, 2018 at 9:46 AM

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