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Paying a VISIT

The Homeland Security Department is officially in the market for a contractor to lead its biggest project to date, the US VISIT immigration system.

The government's most ambitious, and potentially lucrative, homeland security initiative got a major boost Friday, as the Homeland Security Department released a request for proposals to build a massive immigration tracking system.

The request had been anticipated for months, and in that time a handful of teams, led by some of the nation's biggest information technology and engineering firms, have prepared to vie for the contract, known as US VISIT, which could be worth up to $10 billion.

Homeland Security is looking for a company to serve as the US VISIT prime contractor, with responsibility for designing and implementing a system to collect fingerprints and photographs from millions of visitors entering and exiting the United States every year. Such biometric identifiers will be used to verify visitors' identities and compare them to lists of suspected or known terrorists.

The request for proposals was announced with little fanfare the day after Thanksgiving and was posted on the department's Web site. More than 200 pages long, the document says US VISIT will be constructed using task orders issued against a variety of contracts, including fixed-price agreements and cost-reimbursable contracts, in which the contractor would be compensated for what it spends and awarded an additional fee.

The department anticipates that the first task order award will be on such a reimbursable basis. It will require the contractor to form a program and project management regime to support the department's US VISIT office. Homeland Security intends to announce the winning firm by May 2004.

Homeland Security officials have already narrowed the field of potential contractors to three teams of companies, led by Lockheed Martin Corp., Accenture and Computer Sciences Corp.

Former Internal Revenue Service procurement executive Jim Williams leads the US VISIT program office. A veteran handler of large federal contracts, Williams has tapped several seasoned technology executives in government to assist him, including Scott Hastings, chief information officer of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hello, Baghdad

An executive from one of the technology market's most prominent contractors may need to trade in his business suit for a Kevlar vest. GTSI Corp. announced Monday that Joe Draham, the company's vice president of government relations and congressional affairs, is taking a leave of absence in order to take a position in the Coalition Provisional Authority, the body overseeing the occupation of Iraq.

Draham has been named counselor to the Coalition Provisional Authority's new chief operating officer, Joseph "Keith" Kellogg, a retired Army general. Kellogg is taking a leave of absence from Oracle Corp., where he has served as senior vice president for homeland security. Kellogg is also a GTSI board member, and will resign that position now that he is heading overseas, said Dendy Young, GTSI's chief executive.

Young said that in Draham's new role, he would provide support to Kellogg in all areas of the rebuilding process underway in Iraq. Draham and Kellogg became acquainted after Draham came to GTSI and began making contacts with current and former government officials on the company's behalf, Young said. Kellogg chose Draham to accompany him to Baghdad.

Draham has served in Iraq before. He was a member of the senior communications staff for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded military operations in the first Gulf War.