House Approves $10B Accenture Deal


One last effort to kill a potential $10 billion deal between Accenture
and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed Friday on a largely
partisan 221-182 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Under the DHS contract, Bermuda-based Accenture will
serve as the prime contractor on a 10-year project to deploy a
biometrics-based “virtual border” visitor screening system. U.S.-based
Lockheed Martin and Computer Science Corp.
also bid on the contract.


Since DHS announced the
deal on June 1, House Democrats have objected to granting homeland defense
contracts to foreign corporations. Last year, Congress approved a law
prohibiting the DHS from contracting with foreign companies but
grandfathered companies such as Accenture that were already incorporated
overseas.


After Democrats successfully attached an amendment
last week to the $33 billion DHS budget that would strip the deal from
Accenture, the House Rules Committee on Wednesday quashed
the measure through parliamentary maneuvering. The Rules Committee did
approve a provision in the amendment that would bar DHS from doing business
with foreign corporations in the future.


Friday morning, Democrats, who admit the Accenture contract is legal but
violates the spirit of the law, again attempted to amend the DHS budget to
halt the contract.


“Last year, 318 members of this House voted to approve the exact same
language that is in this amendment,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said. “What
we are now saying is that Accenture is not going to get any more contracts,
but they are going to get the $10 billion deal.”


Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) led the opposition to the amendment. He argued that putting
the contract back out for bid would delay the DHS project by at least
two years and cost 35,000 jobs, many of which are in Davis’ home district
where Accenture LLP, the division charged with leading the contract, is
located.


“This amendment is unfortunate,” Davis said. “Can you imagine the penalty costs for
canceling the deal? This singles out one company when there
are literally dozens of global-based companies doing business with the
United States and the Department of Defense.”


Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose district is also located in the technology
corridor of Northern Virginia, added, “This is a legal contract, fully
legitimate.”

Republican Tom Tancredo of California said, “No one has argued that
this company [Accenture] does not provide the best services and products for
this project.”


The Accenture contract is part of the United States Visitor and Immigrant
Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program, which is built around the
concept of a virtual border. When fully implemented, it should help the DHS
assess the security risks of all U.S.-bound travelers and prevent potential
threats from reaching U.S. borders.


The system will record the entry and exit of visitors through the use of
biometric technology, such as inkless digital-finger scans and digital photos captured
at the ports of entry. The information will be maintained in a DHS database
designed by the Accenture team.

Key subcontractors of Accenture’s “Smart
Border Alliance” include Raytheon , The Titan Corp. , and SRA International .


According to DHS, the contract includes five base years with five option
years. While the contract has a minimum value of $10 million, its top value
of $10 billion is theoretical since it involves budgets not yet approved by
Congress.


Currently, US-VISIT requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the
United States on a visa and arriving at a land or seaport have their two
index fingers scanned and a digital photo taken to verify their identity at
the port of entry.


Since first initiating the program in January at 115 airports and 14
seaports, more than 4.5 million foreign nationals have been processed
through the system. According to DHS, the system has helped intercept
more than 500 persons with prior or suspected criminal or immigration
violations.


Congress has mandated that US-VISIT must be deployed at the top 50 U.S. land
ports of entry by December 31.

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