HHS cites coronavirus ‘urgency’ in speedy Palantir contract awards

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar addresses a briefing on the latest information concerning the Coronavirus Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in the James S. Brady Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

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The Department of Health and Human Services cited the “unusual and compelling urgency” of coronavirus recovery as its reason for awarding two contracts, worth a total of $24.9 million, to Silicon Valley big data company Palantir without competition.

A $17.4 million contract awarded April 10 covers data-sharing management under Planatir’s Gotham software and a $7.5 million contract awarded April 22  is for cloud platform implementation. Both are for the HHS Protect system, a new platform that informs White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts to track and mitigate COVID-19’s spread by pulling data from federal agencies, all 50 states, health care facilities, and academia with contributions from private industry.

HHS valued the supplies and services it needs for coronavirus recovery at $30 billion — the amount of supplemental funding Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — in a class justification and approval (J&A) released Thursday.

“Competing requirements taken under the authority of this class J&A would result in unacceptable time delays in fulfilling the agency’s urgent needs in addressing a global pandemic and national public health emergency,” reads the justification. “It would jeopardize HHS’ public health mission in a way that would result in unacceptable risks to the health of the general public in the United States.”

The contracts awarded to Palantir represent “emergency acquisitions,” which may address not only information technology but research and development, support services, equipment, construction, and engineering needs, according to the class J&A.

While the justification states it will include documentation of the “extent of competition undertaken,” no such documentation was provided for the Palantir contracts.

All contracts available under Federal Acquisition Regulation part 16 are authorized for 12 months under the class J&A, which will remain in place for the duration of the national emergency President Trump declared March 13 or until revoked.

“Because COVID-19 is an emerging disease, and there are no vaccines or approved treatments, it is prudent to have adequate flexibility to address this public health emergency,” reads the justification.

The awards are yet another sign of Palantir’s growing portfolio of work with federal agencies. The company has been determined to score business with the government, particularly on the defense side. The company also recently won an award with the nascent U.S. Space Force to deliver data integration tools to help track objects in space.

-In this Story-

CARES Act, coronavirus, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal acquisition regulation, HHS Protect, Palantir, White House Coronavirus Task Force
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