Potomac Management Group Inc., promoting its latest contract win last week, said it will use its experience with the Homeland Security Department and apply it to the Interior Department.
Not that the Alexandria consulting firm will be looking for terrorists in national parks. The new contract is with the Interior Department's Indian Arts and Crafts Board, and the assignment is to help track counterfeit goods sold as Native American handiwork.
No one knows exactly how many woven rugs and beaded necklaces are falsely represented as authentic, but staff at the Indian Arts and Crafts Board say it represents a significant chunk of a multimillion-dollar industry that is vital to the economies of reservations across the country.
"A lot of it is manufactured in the Philippines and China and is distributed to roadside stands, where they're sometimes sold as Indian-made," said Sheryl Rakestraw, program specialist for the arts and crafts board, which was established in 1935. "We hear stories of this stuff all the time -- boxes coming in from China and people being paid to rip the 'Made in China' label off."
Convicted counterfeiters can face up to $250,000 in fines or as much as five years in prison.
So what weapon from its experience as a homeland security contractor will Potomac Management Group wield in this fight? Radio frequency tracking tags? A video surveillance camera system? Advanced wire-tapping technology?
Not quite. The company said that under the contract, the terms of which were not disclosed, it will "provide support in upgrading a database that tracks complaints of violations under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act."
"Everybody has a computer system to organize their data, and that's what this is," Rakestraw said. "We're simply updating to improve our reports."
At the Homeland Security Department, the company mostly helped to write agency regulations that affect private industries and to maintain official documents, such as disaster recovery plans for barges and tankers that enter U.S. ports, said Jay Jayachandran, vice president of marketing and business development.
"This is a way for us to make a name for ourselves in the IT market," Jayachandran said of the firm's latest contract.
-- Ellen McCarthy