DHS Spending on IT Using Other Transaction Agreements, FY 2021-2023

Published: June 13, 2024

Federal Market AnalysisContracting TrendsDHSInformation TechnologyOther Transaction Agreements (OTAs)Procurement

The Department of Homeland Security is leveraging OTA contracts to develop innovative IT capabilities, following the Defense Department’s example.

Over the last few weeks, I have been looking at each of the major Department of Defense (DoD) components – the Department of the Army, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of the Navy and the Defense Agencies – use of Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) contracts for cybersecurity purposes.

This week, I wanted to shift gears a bit and expand the scope beyond the DoD and beyond cyber. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using OTAs to acquire and develop various information technology (IT) capabilities as well, including for cybersecurity.

Total DHS IT OTA Spending, FY 2021-2023

The federal spending data for the most recent three completed fiscal years (FY) – FY 2021 through FY 2023 – reveals a varying degree of OTA usage at DHS from year to year. Granted, the aggregate three-year OTA spending at DHS of $15.8M is meager compared to any of the DoD components, each of which have spent more than $1B on IT OTAs over the same period. Still, DHS’s use of this contracting method for IT innovation and prototyping is worth considering, especially since it shows sustained interest by the agency.

One contrast is noteworthy. While OTA spending for IT at the Defense Agencies and MILDEPS is spread across various agencies and commands, OTAs within DHS are currently concentrated withing the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), which makes sense when considering S&T’s mission and the initiatives they pursue.

Looking at DHS’s OTA use each year over the 3-year period shows some ebb and flow in their yearly cyber OTA spending This is due to agency priorities and as program lifecycles progress. One aspect to highlight: of the $5.1M in FY 2023 OTA spending at DHS, only one contract had any spending reported in FY 2022. This was $750K on the Remote ID Verification for Use on Land Borders (RIDIVULB)/Phase 5 Project. (See the list below.) The remaining $4.3M+ in FY 2023 spending was on new OTA contracts.

DHS OTA Spending by Technology Area, FY 2021-2023

Most of the millions of dollars that DHS spent on OTAs for IT capabilities from FY 2021 through FY 2023 was for efforts in eight technology areas where S&T sought innovation: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), Cyber, Sensor Technology, Unmanned Systems, Software/System Development, Health IT, and Cloud Computing.

Many of these initiatives are for work that address more than one of these technology areas, as some technologies complement each other in pursuit of the program objectives. Therefore, some double counting of the contract dollars in the chart below may result, since it is impossible to assign discreet proportions across the different technologies on the contracts.

DHS IT-Related Efforts Using OTAs, FY 2021-2023

Provided below are the DHS S&T efforts using OTAs for IT innovation and prototyping efforts with aggregate spending for the past three fiscal years, FY 2021 through FY 2023, and which had spending reported for FY 2023, indicating the most recent activity. The technology area addressed by the project is listed after the program name, with multiple technologies listed where appropriate. Again, apart from the RIDIVULB Project, all these OTAs had their total reported spending fall solely in FY 2023.

  • RIDIVULB - Remote ID Verification for Use on Land Borders /Phase 5 Project – Sensor Technology, $1.9M total, $1.1M (60%) in FY 2023     
  • myLanguage DHS Innovation OTS/Phase 3 Project – AI/ML, $499K                  
  • Common Capabilities for Verifiable Credential Lifecycle Management/Combined Phases 3/4 Project – Cyber, Big Data, $400K              
  • Commercializing Verifiable Credentials for Advanced Imports Targeting in Steel & E-Commerce/Phase 4 Project – Cyber, Big Data, $400K                      
  • Interoperable Identity and Credential Life-Cycle Management/Phase 4 – Cyber, $398K                 
  • Chainguard SBOM Generation/Phase 1 Project, – Cyber and SW/System Development, $200K                   
  • Rugged, Reliable, Easy-To-Use Biometric Wearable for DHS Project/Phase 2 – Sensor Technology, $200K      
  • Safeguard And Shield: An Intelligent, Secure, & Scalable Human Performance Solution/Phase 2 Project – Sensor Technology, $200K
  • TestifySec JUDGE/Phase 1, – Cyber $200K
  • Flood Data Collection and Analysis/Phase 1 Project – Big Data, $200K
  • Automatic SBOM Generation Via Dynamic Analysis/Phase 1 Project – Big Data, Cyber, $200K                     
  • Mobile Software Supply Chain Security In 3rd Party SDKS/Phase 1 Project, – Cyber $200K
  • Property Algorithmic Screening System (PASS) Project/Phase 4 – AI/ML, $200K
  • Robust Identification of Events and Persons of Interests Through Non-Biometric Tracking/Phase 2 – Sensor Technology, $200K
  • FloodMapp - Real-Time Flood Data & Analytics - Before, During, After/Phase 2 Project – Big Data, $200K
  • Recursive Evaluation of Security in Soft Targets (RESIST) With Lookback and Lookforward/Phase 1 Project – AI/ML, $200K
  • Automated Gathering of OSINT Related to Biological and Other Threats/Phase 4 – Sensor Technology, AI/ML, $199K
  • AI-Powered Bottom-Up SBOM Generation Platform/Phase 1 – AI/ML, $199K
  • Floodbase/Phase 2 Project – Big Data, $198K
  • Scribe Security/Phase 1 Project – Cyber, $198K

Final Thoughts

While DHS’s use of OTA contracts for its IT innovation efforts is small by comparison with the DoD, the variety of programs listed above, and the technologies involved, point to a healthy and growing use of this acquisition tool to meet pressing mission objectives across the department and its diverse agencies. This diversity of mission application and the sustained use over the period supports an expectation of even greater use of IT OTAs at DHS going forward.