DHS Contracts Spell Big Opportunities For VARs

In an ambitious attempt to transform its IT infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking solution providers to provide IT products and support services, promising ample opportunities to small businesses.

The department's IT Infrastructure Transformation Program seeks to improve its collaboration and reliability by consolidating data networks and data centers, establishing a common e-mail system, and improving its help desk and related support services. Its means for accomplishing such tasks are two contract programs: Eagle and FirstSource. Eagles will establish multiple IT support service contracts, while FirstSource will establish a portfolio of solution-based Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts for acquiring commodity IT offerings. Both programs were announced earlier this month.

"We're going to be using Eagle and FirstSource to implement standards," said Ron Hewitt, acting DHS deputy CIO, during an informational session on the initiatives Tuesday morning. "[The program will] provide information-sharing to ensure the right people have the right information when and where they need it to keep America safe. It's critical that we get this thing done right."

Eagle will establish contracts in five functional categories: infrastructure engineering design, development, implementation and integration; operations and maintenance; independent test, validation, verification and evaluation; software development; and management support services. FirstSource will incorporate two separate business models--one that includes delivery, installation and management of commodities; and another that includes direct shipment, with the customer providing installation services.

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"FirstSource serves as a series of standalone contracts to meet the commodity needs for DHS, and as a complement to Eagle and other contracts," says Mike Smith, contracting officer for the Eagle project. "Contractors will be able to use FirstSource to provide hardware and software for DHS solutions."

The contract vehicles will also provide substantial opportunities for small businesses. The draft request for proposals for both call for small-business prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities in a multiple-award environment. In addition, DHS-sponsored events will be held throughout the year to help small businesses learn about new opportunities and network with department representatives.

"In the initial phase of the process, today is a big day for the small-business community at the Department of Homeland Security," says Kevin Boshears, director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. "The DHS small-business acquisition policy is a shared responsibility among all employees involved in the acquisition process."