The Department of Homeland Security’s award to Northrop Grumman [NOC] last fall of a contract to develop a new biometric storage and matching system was based on having higher confidence than the one losing bidder that protested, which was Leidos [LDOS], and to a lesser degree a lower price, according the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO rejected the Leidos protest in January but delayed releasing its decision rationale until after all parties had a chance to scrub the document for sensitive information. Leidos was one of three losing bidders for the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) program, but the only one that protested.

GAO says that DHS rated Northrop Grumman’s oral presentation—which was most important in the six-factor evaluation process—higher than Leidos. Northrop Grumman also was rated higher in the third most important factor, resource and analysis, and bid the lowest price, the sixth and least important factor.

On three other factors, GAO says that DHS rated Northrop Grumman and Leidos even.

Northrop Grumman’s proposed price was $95.1 million while Leidos bid $158.5 million. After GAO rejected the Leidos protest, DHS awarded Northrop Grumman a 42-month, $95 million contract to develop and integrate HART.

GAO says that Leidos protested the DHS decision based on alleged organizational conflict of interest due to Northrop Grumman employee who was working at the department as part of a Loaned Executive Program and that the evaluation was unreasonable. GAO rejected both points of protest.

The HART program is being managed by the DHS Office of Biometric Identity Management. The new biometric system will replace the IDENT system, which is costly to maintain and doesn’t scale well. IDENT is largely based on fingerprints but does have limited face and iris capabilities. HART will have more robust multimodal biometric capabilities.

For FY ’18, Congress fully funded the DHS budget request for OBIM, providing $68.8 million for identity screening and program operations and $150.6 million for IDENT and HART.

In a report accompanying the FY ’18 DHS spending bill, congressional appropriators direct OBIM to continue to work with relevant DHS stakeholders as well as the intelligence community, Defense, Justice and State Departments, “and other relevant agencies  to standardize and appropriately share biometric information.” The report adds that OBIM in particular needs to keep working with DoD on interim solutions to expand sharing data with the DoD Automated Biometric Identification System, and also with the Transportation Security Administration so the agency’s Technology Infrastructure Modernization Systems are “appropriately integrated with HART.”

For FY ’19, DHS is seeking $230.3 million for OBIM, including $69.6 million for identity and screening program operations, and $160.7 million for IDENT and HART.