DHS continues a trend in IT contracting by no longer managing its own

The Homeland Security Department spends billions of dollars a year on technology products and services, and for much of the past 14 years through its EAGLE and FirstSource vehicles.

While Soraya Correa, DHS’ chief procurement officer, signaled a change in approach for the third version of EAGLE late last year, a new procurement notice details DHS’s plans.

“DHS spent several months collaborating across the information technology and procurement communities in identifying DHS’s IT priorities, evaluating the IT services requirements needed to support those priorities, and in establishing an overarching acquisition strategy that enables continued mission success,” Correa writes in a Feb. 27 notice. “EAGLE I and II have served their purpose. The department will not pursue a re-competition of EAGLE II. DHS will, however, continue to utilize EAGLE II until the expiration of its period of performance.”

Instead of version three of EAGLE, Correa said DHS will call its next step “EAGLE Next Gen,” where it will create a portfolio of DHS IT services contract vehicles with specialized, targeted scope in conjunction with balancing the use of existing governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs).

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Correa said those GWACs include the General Services Administration’s Alliant 2, Alliant 2 Small Business, 8(a) STARS II and VETS 2, as well as the National Institutes of Health’s CIO-SP3 and CIO-SP3 Small Business.

Additionally, DHS plans to establish “a phased approach, DHS-specific contract which could include agile, cloud services, data center optimization, independent verification and validation and systems integration services.”

At the same time, Correa said DHS will decide by the end of March what the future holds for the FirstSource, IT products multiple award contract.

On the surface, the decision by DHS to move away from a duplicative indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, multiple award IT services contract is a good thing. This is especially true given that GSA specifically designed Alliant 2 to be flexible enough to address current, emerging and future technologies and IT processes.

Contract duplication has long been a concern for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Two of the past three OFPP administrators attempted to address this issue, going as far as requiring a business case for any new multiple award contract worth more than $50 million over the life of the deal. The Obama administration also seemed to make some progress as Bloomberg Government found in 2017 that the number of MACs dropped by about 200 from 2012 to 2016.

More recently, OMB has pressed agencies to use governmentwide contracts designated “best-in-class” at GSA, NIH and NASA, and stop developing or renewing their own—we can save a discussion about what “best-in-class” really means for another time. The FBI, the Air Force and now DHS has committed to using GSA schedules or other vehicles.

But at the same time, Correa’s comments about creating DHS-specific contracts for what seems to be commodity IT services is disconcerting.

It will be interesting to see why Correa believes DHS needs its own contracts for things like agile, cloud and systems integration services. These services rely on the same basic concepts whether your agency’s mission is law enforcement, immigration or agriculture so the reason for DHS not to use these GWACs, GSA’s schedules, or other similar MACs from NASA and NIH should be telling about whether the message from the Office of Management and Budget about reducing duplication and taking advantage of the government’s size is truly getting through, or is DHS just pulling the wool over the federal market’s eyes?

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