DHS picks winners of big IT contract

The usual suspects - the nation's biggest contractors - are approved to bid on most IT work at Homeland Security in a $45 billion, seven-year contract.

Twenty-five large contractors have won a place in the Homeland Security sun, as officials named large business winners of the Eagle contract, short for Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions, the Washington Post reported. It is intended to consolidate about 80 percent of the information technology work at the department under a single contract, worth about $45 billion over seven years. Eagle is not actually an award of any work. The winners are merely eligible to bid on future DHS contracts released under Eagle. Most of the big names are included in the winners' list, including Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, BearingPoint, ,Booz Allen Hamilton, and CACI International.

"They've won a license to hunt. The work has to come later," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president at Federal Sources Inc., a McLean-based market research firm that specializes in government contracting.

Soraya Correa, Homeland Security's director of procurement operations, said yesterday that the contract was intentionally divided among a large number of recipients to preserve "the element of competition throughout the program."

A separate list of small business winners will be released next month. Eagle is considered a major event in DHS contracting because the agency's IT contracts had been all over the place, managed outside of the department.

The contract, which has been in the works for the past 18 months, will cover a wide array of information technology work, including developing infrastructure, designing software, and operating and maintaining equipment. A separate contract for hardware, which is limited to small businesses, is scheduled to be awarded later this summer.

But can DHS really handle such a massive contract? In a number of IT projects, the department hasn't exactly shined.

"The extremely large amount of money involved with these contracts, partnered with lack of oversight and quality control, is a prescription for more waste, fraud and abuse," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said.

Under pressure to do competitive bidding on most projects, agencies currently favor these big contracts that establish competitors but don't actually award work. Since the big contractors are all always on these lists of winners, some wonder what the point is. "They're kind of a necessary evil," Bjorklund said. "You have to go through tens of thousands of dollars, or in some cases millions, in bid and proposal money just to have a license to hunt, but no work necessarily."

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