CT Strategies was recently admitted to the Border Security Technology Consortium (BSTC) as a non-traditional government contractor. The BSTC was established with the purpose of quickly testing and evaluating the practicality of new and potentially revolutionary border security technology. Under the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Directive 0771.1, Other Transaction Authority (OTA), the BSTC was authorized with the explicit purpose of bringing together various small businesses, organizations, academics, and government contractors with interest in assisting DHS to advance and develop new border security tools. Such tools that may be considered for research or prototyping under a BSTC transaction could include: x-ray imaging equipment for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) non-intrusive inspection (NII) program, biometric tools such as facial recognition devices to enhance U.S. Entry and Exit systems, blockchain tools, and other devices.
What is the Border Security Technology Consortium?
The BSTC was founded in 2012 to help CBP speed up the research and evaluation of vital border security technologies. One complaint that many federal contractors and government officials have is how long it takes to acquire new products and capabilities through standard acquisition processes. The BSTC provides CBP an additional vehicle by which they can issue acquisitions outside of the standard procurement contract, grant, or cooperative agreement. CBP can issue transactions and agreements to the BSTC to develop and provide new technologies that promote U.S homeland security. Ultimately, DHS and its component agencies leverage the OTA through the BSTC. Transactions and acquisitions that can be made through the BSTC include research projects or transactions for prototype projects. In the context of the OTA, a prototype is any technology, process, concept, end-item or system, that is modeled and evaluated for its feasibility, or value in advancing the DHS mission.
The BSTC is a powerful vehicle for CBP acquisitions because prototypes or research agreements made through it are exempt from complying with FAR regulations. OTAs such as the BSTC are exempt because they are not traditional procurements and are not intended to replace the traditional acquisition process. As a result, acquisitions made through the BSTC can be done quickly and simply. To ensure that organizations like the BSTC are not abused, agencies have imposed strict policies to limit the acquisition of products and services through agencies’ OTA. In the case of the BSTC, not all contracting officers are given permission to work on acquisitions issued through it. Only highly experienced contracting officers with enough training in, and knowledge of the DHS procurement process, DHS OTA, and procurement regulations can handle the acquisition of products and services through the BSTC. Additionally, prototype projects acquired via the BSTC must utilize non-traditional government contractors extensively or be funded in large part by the members of the BSTC. Utilizing the BSTC for research projects requires at least a 50% resource sharing between the government and the contractor and must be used primarily for the development of new tools where the acquisition of these goods and services are not the main purpose.
Why it matters
DHS announced on FedBizOpps a modification to the BSTC OTA, that grants DHS and CBP the authority to issue follow-on production contracts to vendors that successfully complete a prototype project under a call issued through the BSTC. Essentially, these production contracts are not restricted by the standard procurement procedures of full and open competition. Resultantly, production contracts issued through the BSTC can be acquired faster for greater evaluation and testing.