TSA Nears Decision on Contract for Government ID Cards

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Competition is heating up among contractors to supply the government with identity technology as one agency prepares to award a major contract and another readies a request for bids.

The field of competitors to provide a new identification card for transportation workers has been narrowing, and the Transportation Security Administration indicated last week that an award would be made early this year. The winner would be responsible for screening the backgrounds of about 750,000 workers at airports, seaports and other critical transportation facilities, and issuing them ID cards equipped with microchips.

"We are in the final stages of review of the contract, and we will be issuing an award in the coming weeks," said Darrin Kayser, a spokesman for the TSA.

The program, one among several that are designed to update the government's identification standards in a bid to enhance security, has met with repeated delays. President Bush signed legislation mandating the new cards in 2002, and the Homeland Security Department initially said it would begin issuing them by the end of 2003.

Among the companies involved in competing for the work as either prime contractors or subcontractors are BearingPoint of McLean, Lockheed Martin of Bethesda and Maximus of Reston.

The General Services Administration, meanwhile, plans by Jan. 12 to issue a call for bids on work supplying identification cards to federal employees and contractors.

The new contract replaces a $104 million deal the GSA had with BearingPoint but pulled out of in November. At the time, GSA officials said that the decision, just two months into the contract, was unrelated to BearingPoint's performance but that the agency wanted to reopen the bidding to give the government more options and better prices.

Government agencies are up against a 2008 deadline to distribute new, standardized identification cards to about 8 million employees and contractors. Agencies can either choose the GSA's contractors or use their own program. BearingPoint had been developing cards for 38 agencies.

Bidding on the GSA contract is open to companies on a list of approved firms, known as a schedule. As of last week, the schedule included the names of 18 contractors. Washington area firms dominate the list.

Computer Sciences of El Segundo, Calif., is not on the GSA's list yet. Tim Ruggles, director of the firm's border and immigration center, said the company is hoping to join soon with a system it has developed using off-the-shelf technology that verifies identity using both biometric information, such as fingerprints and iris scans, and biographic information, such as addresses and age.

Computer Sciences is among the firms competing to produce the transportation worker credential, and it plans to vie for the GSA's business as well.

"It's a big opportunity," Ruggles said.

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