Nearly three weeks into a shutdown of a quarter of the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, contractors so far say they aren’t seeing any drag on their work for the department.
One important near-term acquisition appears to still be on, at least for now, which is the Transportation Security Administration’s plan to acquire computed tomography (CT)-based scanners to screen carry-on bags at airport checkpoints.
A spokesman for TSA Administrator David Pekoske, a champion for CT at the checkpoint, told HSR on Jan. 4 that he hadn’t heard of any changes to the acquisition plans but cautioned “we’ll see how long this lapse in funding goes and what the impacts are.”
Joseph Paresi, chairman and CEO of Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, one of four companies vying for the pending CT awards, told HSR that he hasn’t received any notice of a change in plans, adding that TSA had requested some clarifications on the original proposals and those resubmittals of proposal updates are due Jan. 15.
“So I think they are trying to maintain schedule,” Paresi said.
No news may be good news.
On Dec. 21, just before the partial government shutdown was scheduled to go into effect, Soraya Correa, the chief procurement officer at DHS, issued a statement to industry on the potential impacts of a shutdown.
“If a contract will not be affected at the onset of the lapse in appropriations, DHS does not plan to provide any separate notifications or communications of the fact,” says Correa’s message. “Unless the contracting officer provides a formal notification to the contrary, all DHS contractors must continue to comply with all terms, conditions, requirements and deliveries specified in their contract(s).”
Correa warns though that the shutdown may also mean an inability to buy “supplies and services, as well as a reduction in the Government’s capacity to administer DHS contracts.” This may mean contracts are cancelled, delayed, cut back or terminated, she says, adding payments may also be delayed.
The shutdown down has resulted in thousands of job furloughs while front line personnel such as Transportation Security Officers and Border Patrol Agents work without pay.
Frank Dunn, vice president for C4ISR for Rohde & Schwarz’s U.S.-based business, tells HSR that TSA’s evaluation of his company’s QPS 201 Advanced Imaging Technology people scanner at Denver International Airport continues despite the DHS shutdown. TSA began evaluating the AIT system for 90 days in mid-December as part of the routine traveler flow at a checkpoint.
Rohde & Schwarz isn’t selling its body scanner to TSA. The agency currently buys all of its AIT systems from L3 Technologies [LLL].
One industry official whose company does work with DHS as a prime and subcontractor tells HSR that his company isn’t having any issues and that most of their customers are still working.
The partial shutdown also affects other departments and agencies such as Commerce, Justice, State, Transportation, Agriculture, NASA and others. Companies reliant on some of these agencies for their business are beginning to be impacted, with Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC] saying at its investor day on Jan. 7 that the top line could be it by about $10 million per week due to the shutdown.
The Aerospace Industries Association on Jan. 8 highlighted that with Commerce and the State Department closed, “export licenses can no longer be processed, delaying the delivery of products to foreign customers,” adding that contractors that work at agencies that are closed can’t report to work, which means they are also furloughed, and that research projects at NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “are suspended“, setting back development of game-changing technologies.”
DHS apparently hasn’t been responsive to Congress, at least House Democrats, about the security impacts of the ongoing shutdown. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Jan. 8 released 10 unanswered questions about the functioning of DHS in the wake of the appropriations lapse.
Among the questions is the impact on TSA’s plans to purchase improved airport security technology, Coast Guard plans to replace its aging vessels, and the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) ability to aid the federal government, private sector and state elections agencies.
Of CISA’s 3,531 employees, 2,008 are exempt from being furloughed during the shutdown, according to DHS documents, which don’t break down the positions by divisions and office.
DHS components have postponed industry days planned in the coming days and this week’s planned annual cyber research and development showcase hosted by the Science and Technology Directorate has also been postponed.