The Department of Homeland Security by the end of next week expects to award contracts to three vendors for up to 200 new Radiation Portal Monitors (RPMs) to be deployed at the nation’s ports of entry and is also well into the planning stages of a separate acquisition effort aimed at bringing a modular systems open architecture approach to meet future needs for the radiation detection systems.

The RPM Replacement Portal effort has been ongoing for several years and more recently was delayed due to a protest by a vendor that was deemed to be outside the competitive range. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Aug. 10 rejected the protest and now the DHS is “finalizing the contracts to be awarded,” Scott Jansson, an official on the Systems Support team in the Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD), told Defense Daily on Wednesday during a phone interview. He said there will be three awards for the replacement RPMs.

DHS is planning a partial replacement for some of its Radiation Portal Monitors and eventually plans on open systems architecture to future procurements. Photo: Customs and Border Protection
DHS is planning a partial replacement for some of its Radiation Portal Monitors and eventually plans on open systems architecture to future procurements. Photo: Customs and Border Protection

According to the GAO’s bid protest website, it denied a protest on Aug. 10 by Switzerland-based Arktis Detection Systems, which makes RPMs, mobile radiation monitoring systems, and gamma and neutron detectors. The GAO is in the process of redacting its decision before releasing it.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), an operating agency within DHS, operates a fleet of between 1,300 and 1,400 RPMs, many of them deployed in 2003 following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and are approaching the end of their expected service life. The RPMs are used to passively scan cargo conveyances for potential radiological threats.

The replacement RPM program is aimed at providing CBP with systems that can be used in remote operations, which requires lower false alarm rates so that operators don’t need to be located with the systems, Kalpesh Patel, who is also with the Systems Support team in the Office of the CWMD, said on the same phone interview. He said the newer systems will feature better technology that will address the false alarm rate needs.

Additional RPMs are also needed to replace some of the aging legacy systems and to meet requirements for new systems due to port expansions and reconfigurations, Patel said.

In late fiscal year 2019 or early fiscal year 2020, the Office of CWMD plans to release a Request for Proposals for a new procurement that it is calling the RPM Open Systems Architecture (ROSA). The goal with ROSA is to allow DHS to buy RPMs that feature a standard interface that would work with the various modules that make up the larger RPM, enabling the department to purchase upgrades such as detectors and other systems as threats evolve and also as costs come down, without relying on a single vendor.

Briefing slides made public by DHS following an Aug. 2 Industry Day at the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., to discuss ROSA say that DHS wants a single systems integrator that would put the modules together to create the new RPMs. Jansson said it’s still to be determined if that integrator will be a contractor or the government. But the government can select the various modules that would be integrated by the integrator as long as they meet the ROSA interface specification.

A thousand ROSA kits will be needed to recapitalize the currently fielded radiation sensors within five years of a contract award, according to the slides. DHS outlines four modules defined by ROSA, including gamma and neutron radiation detectors, vehicle presence detectors, an analysis module that provides threat analysis results, and a control module for directing traffic, issuing commands and controlling devices.

The government is still developing the ROSA interface specification. The slides say that ROSA will use the same operational and functional requirements as the RPM replacement program.