DHS Kicks Off IT Buying Plans

The DHS is launching two programs for procuring IT services, hardware and software.

As part of the effort to integrate the 22 organizations joined to form the Department of Homeland Security, the agency is launching two programs for procuring IT services and equipment.

Taking a cue from successful enterprise IT shops, the DHS plans to eliminate duplicate systems and services while taking better advantage of its buying power.

One of the first major initiatives announced under DHS CIO Scott Charbo, who took over IT responsibilities at the end of June, the new acquisition framework is designed to help create a unified IT infrastructure throughout the agency. The two programs, called EAGLE (Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge) solutions and First Source, are slated to satisfy all the departments IT requirements, Charbo said.

The EAGLE program will cover IT services, including engineering design and implementation, operations and maintenance, testing and verification, software development, and management support. Contractors will have to provide integrated methods of operation between components and support systems, according to a draft request for proposal sent to vendors last week.

For hardware and software, the DHS is launching First Source, which will cover, among other things, networking equipment, imaging products, wireless technology and online data-tracking systems. Under First Source, multiple contracts will go to OEMs and other suppliers.

Another goal of the new procurement program is taking better advantage of the agencys buying power, said Larry Orluskie, DHS spokesperson in Washington. By uniting requirements throughout its many divisions, the agency will be able to identify economies of scale and consolidate services, Orluskie said.

"Anything you can think of in the department has some relationship some way or another to an IT function," Orluskie said. "If you look across the department, everybody was doing procurement their own way. One of the things you need to do is strategic sourcing—leverage your ability to buy."

The framework will likely streamline acquisitions for the agency, but it may not make things easier for contractors, industry sources said. "I can see some administrative and management benefits to doing it this way," said Dave Nadler, a partner with the Washington law firm of Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP, which represents IT companies in government contracts. "Theres a different skill set involved [in buying services and buying commodities]. It does make some sense from an efficiency standpoint."

Since DHS start, the agencys buying practices have come under considerable criticism from the industry, which has voiced that the department lacks coordination in its spending.

"My view is that there are plenty of existing contract vehicles out there. The issue has been a lack of spending, a lack of coordination," Nadler said. "Having new contract vehicles is not necessarily going to fix those problems."


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