With so few new acquisition programs in the pipeline at the Defense Department, it is perhaps no surprise that all the major contractors are competing for Customs and Border Protection’s latest attempt to field a $1.5 billion camera system in the Southwest.
The integrated fixed tower program has garnered “more [proposals] than I have ever seen in my life,” Mark Borkowski, assistant commissioner for the CBP’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, said at a House Homeland Security subcommittee on oversight, investigations and management hearing.
Borkowski served 23 years as an acquisition officer in the Air Force, and six more as a civilian at NASA and the Department of Homeland Security.
“I am very pleased with the number of proposals that we got. That suggests that all the communication we did with industry ... worked,” he said.
“The down side of that is I do have to slog through all those proposals,” he added.
Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Co., The Boeing Co. and a General Dynamics-EADS team are believed to be among the throng that has submitted proposals.
Borkowski’s testimony suggested that the decision to award contracts to demonstrate systems won’t be coming soon. However, there won’t initially be a winner-take-all contract as there was in the past. Documents show that CBP will require winners of the first round to demonstrate their systems in a down-select competition. The agency has asked for high technology readiness level cameras and supporting technologies that are already proven to be reliable. This is not a development program, Borkowski has emphasized.
The cautious approach follows the failed Secure Border Initiative, SBInet, program that was canceled in 2011 after CBP and its prime contractor Boeing suffered cost overruns and schedule delays.
The department’s ability to field the towers and cameras will be watched closely.
Borkowski’s comments came not at a border security hearing, but one focusing on DHS’ longtime problems with acquiring new technologies.
The department, which has some 127 major acquisition programs across its 22 agencies, has had problems hiring procurement specialists, following standard procedures and documenting its work.
A DHS IT Program Assessment document that examined risks that the integrated fixed tower program may face, stated, “If the correct mix of staffing/skills is not available to support the project, then quality and timeliness of work will suffer, resulting in impacts to cost and schedule.”