Soraya Correa, Director, Office of Procurement Operations, at DHS spoke about a wide-range of topics concerning EAGLE/First Source in this interview with 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media.

The competitively awarded the $390 million technical services contract to operate DHS’s Stennis Data Center in July marks another success story for the DHS and its EAGLE and First Source IDIQ contracts.


The contractor (CSC) will work in conjunction with the headquarters CIO and the components to migrate to that data center and run all operations internally to that data center according to Soraya Correa, Director, Office of Procurement Operations, DHS. She spoke about vendor competition, plans for the future and working with industry among other topics.


Q. 1105 Government Information Group Custom Media
What is the contractor competition like when using EAGLE?
A. Soraya Correa
We are seeing huge activities from the CIO and several of the directorates including the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the Science & Technology Directorate, CBP, CIS, ICE, Coast Guard, the Secret Service and SBInet. Did I leave anyone out?


Of the 199 task orders awarded, 39% went to Small Business and 27% of them were Small Business set-asides. We have established the business process that we can do either a set-aside or let them compete with large businesses. That is actually working as well.


Q. What type of market research do you do?
A. From our contractors, we get good feedback and we are continually learning. The good thing about having a program like this and managing it through our ESO is that we do conduct quarterly meeting with all of our EAGLE vendors to talk about lessons learned, to identify areas of concern and figure out how we can improve business processes and procedures.


We are also updating the EAGLE Ordering Guide. We got a lot of great suggestions from vendors – even on how we can better conduct our competitions.

We have this cadre of contractors that understand our mission and requirements and they competitively bid. We are not seeing “logical follow on or sole source” contracts. So, pretty much everything is competed, even
small business set-asides.

Soraya Correa, Director of Procurement, DHS

One of the things we can do is take advantage of doing the right level of market research before we put out the task order. There are several processes for conducting market research.


One is actually inviting companies in and talking with them individually. Often companies won’t tell you everything they are thinking during big industry days. During these conversations we can ask them things such as: how will you bid this; how will you structure a bid like this; what will entice you to invest up front? These one-on-ones help us get that type of data so we can better structure them for competition. We have done that on several large programs on EAGLE including for CIS transformation and our data center.


By having these contracts, we now have a group of contractors that have become known to us. They are knowledgeable of our environment and we can interact with them at a different level and get very good feedback on how we can improve the contract and how we are doing business under the contract.


Q. How do you plan to make EAGLE and First Source better in the future?
A. We can make EAGLE better. The question is how do we take what we have done – which is build a contractual vehicle that our components can rely on and use to improve their IT buying, but also to conform to the CIO’s vision of one infrastructure at DHS – and improve on that?


I’m looking at the next generation. The first question is do we do it? I think, the answer is ‘yes’, but how do we make that better?


For small business, we should have built in an “on ramp process” for when small businesses get bought out. Should we keep the functional categories the same? Should there be more, less or combine? Those answers will be driven by what we have learned from the existing contract.


Another area of emphasis is the middle of the range companies; those not big, but not small either. Maybe in the next generation of contract we will do something that falls into that category. Also, how do we improve and promote more competition and better set asides, so we should look at having “more granularity” when it comes to small businesses, veterans owned, service disabled veterans, 8(a) and Hub Zone? And keep it usable and user friendly?


It’s all about being innovative with the next generation of contract.


Q. Has the EAGLE process been a success?
A. Whenever you are trying to do something like what we are doing here at DHS; where we are trying to consolidate the infrastructure and come up with an innovative and creative approaches. EAGLE is a good example of the IT community coming together with the procurement community to come up with a solution that works for both of us.


It has enabled Procurement to remain nimble, agile and responsive to the IT community, and enabled the IT community to come together as a unit and make overarching decisions but allowing each of the components to doing their buying under these vehicles.


This is how you work collaboratively and this is the kind of innovation you can come up with.


Q. What advice would you give government buyers about working with industry?
A. I speak as a head of a contracting activity. We have to remember that you have to work with industry; industry has answers and they are more than willing to share those answers with you, but it requires collaboration and discussion.


One of things we have done well during the planning for EAGLE and now even as task orders are being let, is there was a lot of up front communication with industry about what works and what doesn’t. We did a lot of market research, but it is more about information exchange. We learned from industry what induces them to participate in this market and give us their best effort, prices and solution. You have to engage industry early and often from planning the project and through the life of the project and keep them engaged and keep learning from them.


Q. How has training attributed to the success of EAGLE?
A. Whenever you undertake a major initiative, you have to have a comprehensive communications and training plan. Most projects fail because people didn’t know how to work the project; they lacked the training and lacked the communication.


We have tried to keep that communication going. We established the ESO as we were writing the contracts, so the component COs knew they would be working with us early. The ESO was already thinking about how to
communicate and components on how to use it. Now they continue to look at ways to promote use of contracts. They monitor EAGLE and put together the Ordering Guide. They are now even putting together a Best Practices guide.


In any major undertaking, you have to have management on your side working as your developing the key initiatives. People have to think to the future as you are developing the initial process. Most of big contracts suffer because that management piece isn’t put in until after you award the
contract and by then, you are too late.


We awarded EAGLE in August 2006 and had orders in September. We hit the ground running quickly because we had a management plan, ordering guide strategy and communications with components. People were actually getting prepared and that’s why we were able to issue so many orders in those first months.


We provide a lot of training for our components. Periodically we go out and refresh and update people on how to issue task orders, how to competitive task orders and make sure we are using the benefits of EAGLE, which is a more streamlined approach. We will conduct two to three training sessions per year per component if they wish. 


Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (EAGLE) serves as a department-wide platform for acquiring IT service solutions in five functional categories (FC's):

* FC1 – Engineering Design, Development, Implementation and Integration
* FC2 – Operations and Maintenance
* FC3 – Independent Test, Evaluation, Validation and Verification
* FC4 – Software Development
* FC5 – Management Support ServicesAccess the website to find EAGLE Contract Award Documentation (through current mod), Contractor list, procurement forecast, sub-contracting opportunities, task order award information and the Ordering Guide.

FirstSource provides DHS with access to a wide variety of IT commodity products. The FirstSource contracts include, but are not limited to:

* Networking equipment
* Wireless technology
* Imaging products
* Voice recognition technology
* On-line data reporting services for order, delivery, warranty, asset, and spend tracking; and associated product maintenance, installation, and support.

Visit the website for a contractor list, list of awarded contracts and the FirstSource Ordering Guide.

Source: DHS