By Greta Wodele
June 1, 2004The Homeland Security Department on Monday announced a potentially $10 billion deal over the next five years with Accenture for a new program to track foreign visitors entering and exiting the United States, but one key Democrat expressed skepticism.
"By harnessing the power of the best minds in the private sector, we have taken a major step toward accomplishing our goals of enhancing the security of our country while increasing efficiency at our borders," said Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security.
The department awarded Accenture the contract on Friday and announced the deal on Tuesday. It covers the next five years with five, one-year options beyond to resign the deal, and it has a minimum value of $10 million and a maximum value of $10 billion. Accenture would provide a wide range of services including strategic support, design and integration activities, technical solutions, deployment activities, training, and organizational change management, according to a department statement.
The department awarded Accenture, whose parent company is based in the Bermuda, the contract over two other bidders, Lockheed Martin and Computer Sciences Corp.
But Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas, ranking member on the House Homeland Security panel, issued a statement following the department's announcement questioning its lack of details.
"Right now, we do not know how the system will work, who will be covered, what technologies will be deployed, and, how much the whole thing will cost," said Turner.
He also said the award gives "unprecedented authority to a private contractor to design and build a border security system for the United States that will have long term implications for our national security, our international relations, and the economies of border communities across the country."
Turner called for congressional oversight of the project to ensure national objectives are achieved and "taxpayer dollars are put to good use."
The department rolled out the so-called US VISIT program - which requires U.S. officials to take digital photographs and scanned fingerprints of foreign visitors - early January to 115 airports and 14 seaports. It plans to expand the initiative to the top 50 busiest land ports by the end of the year.
Tuesday's release said U.S. officials have intercepted more than 500 individuals with prior or suspected criminal or Immigration violations since January.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon awarded DigitalNet a $16 million contract to meet the Air Force Material Command's network computing and software needs. DigitalNet has provided the service since 1992 for the program.
By Greta Wodele
June 1, 2004