Avue files protest over massive TSA human resources contract

Avue, one of three bidders on the $1.2 billion contract for the development and management of TSA's human resources operations, contends that the award to Lockheed Martin Corp. violated procurement regulations.
Among other violations, Avue states that TSA failed to consider that both losing bidders are certified as private sector shared-service centers under the federal HR line of business framework, a key Bush administration initiative.
In a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office, Avue says the HR line of business was designed to minimize risk and contain costs for agencies by providing a pre-approved list of vendors with the experience and technology to provide HR systems.
"HR LOB providers, such as Avue, were required to prove their solutions through a rigorous screening and evaluation process, including four days of operational capabilities demonstrations and on-site visits to assess IT security," Avue states. "TSA failed to conduct even a single demonstration or site visit. Instead, it relied exclusively on written proposals, one oral presentation and one follow-on Q&A."
Linda Rix, Avue co-chief executive officer, said in a statement that TSA's failure to apply the framework hinders OMB's ability to prove the merits of the initiative. OMB is aiming for a billion-dollar return on investment from the HR line of business over 10 years.
"The unnecessary expenditures associated with this award alone will wipe out that return," she said.
In an interview, Rix said she "cannot ascertain why [TSA would award the contract to Lockheed] if purely on the merits."
Avue contends not only that Lockheed is not a certified shared service center, but that the firm "does not have an operational technology platform and must develop a new one for TSA."
In announcing the award, Lockheed said the firm will develop and deploy an advanced HR system to support the recruiting, assessing, hiring, paying and promoting of all TSA employees. The firm also will provide contract employees to manage the HR services.
The agreement has generated a firestorm of criticism in recent weeks due in part to the massive size of the contract and the agency's lingering personnel problems. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called the award "another step down the wrong path by a troubled agency."
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley on July 17 requesting more information on the contract and expressing skepticism that the contract was the right choice to remedy the agency's persistent workforce issues.
The American Federation of Government Employees expressed concern that awarding Lockheed the contract creates a conflict of interest.
"AFGE believes that Lockheed Martin would like to take over the duties of the federalized screener workforce, and so stands to gain by demonstrating that the federalization of screening duties has been a failure," AFGE President John Gage said on July 18.
TSA did not return calls for comment.

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