DHS uses new $20M acquisition tool to entice startups

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The Department of Homeland Security will begin using a special kind of acquisition tool to try and attract smaller companies, and especially technology startups, that don’t traditionally seek to do business with the government with $20 million in awards.

“We want to remove the barriers that limit the nation’s innovators from considering us as a technology partner,” DHS Undersecretary for Science and Technology Reginald Brothers said in a statement.

It is the first time the DHS Science and Technology Directorate has employed the contract vehicle, called an Other Transaction Solicitation, or OTS, spokesman John Verrico told FedScoop.

The first wave of awards under the OTS will be for innovations that help provide better security for the Internet of Things, Verrico said. “Other topics will come later.”

“It’s a good way of reaching small businesses and entrepreneurs that don’t see themselves as possible government contractors,” he added. “We need to tap into all the brainpower out there.”

“Traditional procurement and assistance processes sometimes take too long and are ineffective at deploying state-of-the-art homeland security innovations,” according to the procurement notice, published out of the department’s Silicon Valley office. “Therefore, DHS has developed an Innovation framework to be implemented utilizing the flexibility of an OTS to engage non-traditional Government contractors, including start-up companies. This engagement is intended to better understand and assist new companies so they have more opportunities to work with the department.”

Companies can apply to be part of the four-phase procurement process the solicitation envisages and will get a response within 30 days. Each phase — prototype development, further prototype development, pilot testing and operational field testing — will last three to six months and be worth $50,000 to $200,000 to each awardee.

The number of awardees will be whittled down for each phase, and the department says it expects to have $20 million available altogether for awards.

Contact the reporter on this story at shaun.waterman@fedscoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @WatermanReports

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Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Departments, Government IT News, Innovation, Procurement
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