Competitive sourcing leads to new immigration management initiative

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has decided to upgrade is processing systems and used competitive sourcing to find a contractor. Despite attempts this summer by federal unions to limit the use of public-private contractors and a lack of clarity about if, or how much, the upcoming Obama administration might scale back federal competitive sourcing, the USCIS launched a major overhaul of America’s immigration services management last week. IBM was given a five-year, $500 million contract to reinvent how the government handles about seven million applications each year for visas, citizenship and approval to work in the United States. Here’s the story from the Washington Post:

International Business Machines Corp. was selected over rivals CSC and Accenture to serve as a “solutions architect” for the $2.6 billion-a-year agency, which employs 10,700 government workers and 8,000 contractors at 200 locations nationwide. The contract, awarded this week and the largest federal homeland security bid on the market, includes a $14.5 million, 90-day assessment period with options over five years worth $491.1 million. Government investigators have reported that the agency’s pre-computer-age paper filing system incurs $100 million a year in archiving, storage, retrieval and shipping costs; has led to the loss or misplacement of more than 100,000 files; and has contributed to backlogs and delays for millions of cases. Modernization efforts, proposed in 1999, have been delayed by funding problems, inertia, post-Sept. 11 security demands and reorganization triggered by the creation of the Homeland Security Department. The department’s inspector general in 2007 faulted the agency for being “entrenched in a cycle of continual planning, with little progress.”

Wisely realizing that outsourcing rarely works without a well structured contract, analysts said USCIS has been working carefully over the past few years in structuring the project in such a way that it avoids some of the flaws that have derailed other major Homeland Security contracts including SBInet (an initiative with Boeing to build a “virtual” border fence using surveillance technology), and Deepwater (the Coast Guard’s massive fleet-replacement effort with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman).

Anthony Randazzo

Anthony Randazzo is director of economic research for Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. His research portfolio is regularly evolving, and he maintains a wide interest in economic policy at both a domestic and international level.

Randazzo is also managing director of the Pension Integrity Project, which provides technical assistance to public sector retirement system stakeholders who are seeking to prevent pension plan insolvency. His research focus on the national public sector pension crisis has a dual focus of identifying the systemic factors that cause public officials to underfund pension obligations as well as studying the processes by which meaningful pension reform can be accomplished. Within the Project he leads the analytics team that develops independent, third party actuarial analysis to stakeholders considering changes to public sector retirement systems.

In addition, Randazzo writes about the moral foundations of economic theory, and is currently developing research on the ways that the moral intuitions of economists influence their substantive findings on topics like income inequality, immigration, or labor policy.

Randazzo's work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Barron's, Bloomberg View, The Washington Times, The Detroit News, Chicago Sun-Times, Orange-County Register, RealClearMarkets, Reason magazine and various other online and print publications.

During his tenure at Reason he has published substantive research on housing finance, financial services regulation, and various other aspects of economic policy at the federal level. And he has written regularly on labor economics, tax policy, privatization, and Turkish-U.S. political and economic issues.

Randazzo has also testified before numerous state and local legislative bodies on pension policy matters, as well as before the House Financial Services Committee on topics related to housing policy and government-sponsored enterprises.

He holds a multidisciplinary M.A. in behavioral political economy from New York University.

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