Is DHS dysfunction hurting your business?

As DHS struggles to get Eagle II out the door, its components are turning to other vehicles, and a growing leadership vacuum isn't helping matters.

At the end of July, I wrote about how the exodus of CIOs across government might be putting innovation at risk.

Since then, I’ve seen more signs that my premise has merit, and unfortunately, the Homeland Security Department might be the poster child for the void in its leadership ranks.

The department appears to be on “cruise control,” as one executive described it to me.

DHS has always been a beast to manage because it is a conglomeration of multiple agencies that were merged in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but after a few years of growing pains, the department seemed to have pulled things together.

The first Eagle contract was a success, so much so that DHS greatly expanded the capabilities for Eagle II, but the problem now is that it can’t seem to get the procurement out the door. The main full and open portion of the contract is still in source selection.

These kinds of delays are sending DHS components to other agencies to get their procurements done.

A case in point is the recent award to Lockheed Martin of the Customs Modernization contract. The contract is under protest by IBM, but that is beside the point here.

DHS originally wanted to use Eagle II to award the work, but because of delays, Customs and Border Protection turned to the General Services Administration’s Alliant contract instead.

And that’s what I’m hearing is happening across the department.

The Office of Cybersecurity and Communications did it with the $6 billion Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation contract. CS&C used the GSA schedule to award the contract to 17 companies, and not a DHS vehicle.

The Transportation Security Administration is using GSA for the recompete of its Program Management Support Services contract, something that probably should go through the Technical Acquisition and Business Support Services contract; known as TABSS, it’s an $11 billion contract with 63 winners. PMSS is still in the pre-RFP stage, so there was definitely time for TSA to use TABSS.

For some reason, they didn’t want to, and DHS headquarters couldn’t force them.

The list goes on, as the component agencies are pulling hard to go their own way.

One way to look at it is that GSA is luring the components away from DHS vehicles by offering better service and deals. I know that’s what Mary Davie, GSA’s assistant commissioner for the Office of Integrated Technology Services, would say.

Perhaps she’s right, but with the delays to vehicles such as Eagle II, the components don’t have much of a choice either.

Contractors are facing quite a dilemma, and it’s costing them money.

Think about it: By the time Eagle II is up and running, a lot of major initiatives already will be locked up for several years. If you win Eagle II, have you wasted your bid and proposal dollars?

The leadership vacuum will likely get worse before it gets better. FCW reporter Frank Konkel says that there are 15 top positions across DHS that are either vacant or temporarily filled. That number will grow, as DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano is set to leave in September. Her replacement has yet to be named.