State readies $50B international criminal justice contract

The State Department's $50 billion Criminal Justice Program Support contract will help war-torn nations rebuild court and public safety systems.

By any standard, a contract with a value in the billions will get serious attention, and that’s especially true in a recession. So industry observers and government contractors expect that when the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) releases a request for proposals for the $50 billion, eight-year Criminal Justice Program Support (CJPS) contract later this fall, the jockeying by companies to get on board will be intense.

“Whenever you see any of these contracts with a double-digit billion dollar figure in the ceiling, by definition, it will be competitive,” said Bob Reschke, director of governance and institutional development at PAE, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin. “We certainly expect that it will be.”

William Mixon, president and chief executive officer of USIS Inc., agreed. The company, an information and security services firm based in Falls Church, Va., has openly expressed its intention to bid on CJPS. “Everyone’s looking at this contract,” he said.

Recently named the Top Federal Opportunity in 2010 by Input, CJPS is the next iteration of the Civilian Police (CivPol) contract, a $6.3 billion task-order contract awarded by INL in 2003 to three prime contractors: PAE, DynCorp International and Civilian Police International — the latter is a joint venture of four companies, including KBR.

Based on a request for information released during the summer by INL, CJPS is expected to be a significantly more robust program. It builds on the existing contract to include not only civilian policing but also rule-of-law programs in at least seven — and potentially more — countries and regions. They include Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Lebanon, Kosovo, the West Bank and the Sudan.

“You might call it peacekeeping, but it’s more criminal justice and law enforcement once peace has been established,” said Kevin Plexico, executive vice president of information services at Input. “In post-conflict countries, you need to make sure that laws are enforced, but you also need to make sure that there’s a judicial system in place to support the law enforcement organizations, and that’s what this contract is ultimately intended to provide.”

Because of the contract's expanded scope, INL has indicated that it could make awards to as many as five contractors, and INL is also planning to separately price each task order in recognition that implementing the contract’s objectives in some countries might be more difficult and expensive than in others.

Tasks and activities will vary from mission to mission but could include advising on court administration and Islamic religious law, providing routine and emergency medical support, or providing procurement services for foreign police.

The contract also is expected to include infrastructure-related support — such as constructing judicial, corrections and medical facilities — and IT support, including inventory control systems and inventory management systems.

The wider set of requirements and activities will result in a potential role for additional companies, which will fuel competition, Plexico said. “There will be a lot of organizations interested in subcontracting on this,” he said. “It certainly increases the opportunity for companies that wouldn’t have even thought about participating in prior acquisitions.”

In its opportunity report, Input listed nearly 40 vendors that have expressed interest in bidding on the contract, not including the incumbents. Those large companies include Science Applications International Corp., Oracle and Sybase Inc., in addition to service-disabled veteran-owned firms such as Veterans Enterprise Technology Solutions Inc., Sygnetics Inc., High Tech Crime Institute Inc., the Arcanum Group Inc. and Tri-Cor Industries Inc.

And CJPS is not a one-time-only event. It will have a series of task orders over several years and could be applied to any country that has recently ended hostilities. As such, any prime contractor must be flexible and have a robust teaming strategy.

“This contract involves complex tasks that are really customized, based on the needs of the individual country, the individual program in question,” said Jeanine Zeitvogel, program manager at USIS, which previously built the Iraq Training Academy for Iraqi security forces. “What will be required really runs the gamut, so I don’t think that your imagination can kind of outrun the possibilities of the types of teammates that you could look for on this job.”

No small challenge

CJPS is significant beyond its value, observers say. The sooped-up contract reflects the Obama administration’s focus on diplomacy and a not-so-subtle shift toward an outcomes-based approach rather than simply staffing programs with volumes of individuals or “boots on the ground,” Mixon said.

“We think it’s going to be more about: What are the goals and objectives that we have in any given country on any given engagement, and how as a contractor can we support INL — and the State Department in particular — in achieving its goals and objectives in each particular country?” Mixon said.

Still, one of the biggest challenges for any prime contractor on this contract will be the ability to quickly hire staff and field large numbers of law enforcement and criminal justice experts, including attorneys, corrections consultants, customs officers, civil disorder specialists and traffic accident investigators who are willing to go to post-conflict countries that are highly unstable and involve difficult living conditions.

Adding to that challenge, State needs contractors to take people with those basic skills and prepare them for an international environment. “You can have wonderful police trainers, for example, with lots and lots of U.S. domestic experience, but you’ve also got to have cultural awareness and sensitivity to any of these countries where we’re working, and that’s a real task,” Reschke said. “So we want to make sure that we have clear vetting and then look for people either with international experience or make sure that we do advanced training so that they can successfully transfer their skills to an international context.”

In its RFI, INL indicated its desire to have a small-business prime contractor on CJPS, but the staffing requirement and the diversity of locations involved will make that a tough goal to achieve, Plexico said. “There aren’t that many small businesses that can provide this level of support and capability, if any,” he said, noting that the goal could be achieved by including a small business on a joint venture.

The challenges are not likely to deter too many potential vendors, though. “There are some great teaming opportunities with this,” says Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer of FedSources. “With those kinds of numbers in today’s environment, it’s very attractive, especially when you couple that with the fact that demand for military support contracts in southwest Asia are subtly declining. This State Department contract will pick up the slack in terms of market capacity.”

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