Massive Classified NSA Contract Under Protest

FILE - In this June, ... ]

FILE - In this June, ... ] Patrick Semansky/AP File Photo

The second part of the National Security Agency's Groundbreaker IT is on hold.

One of the National Security Agency’s most important technology contracts—secretly awarded to AT&T weeks ago—is under protest by one of the losing bidders, DXC Technology.

The contract in question is part of the NSA’s classified Groundbreaker program, which dates back to a 2001 effort to outsource its IT operations originally valued at more than $5 billion but grew so large NSA recently opted to break the new contract into three separate pieces.

NSA awarded the first contract of the new Groundbreaker recompete to tech firm CSRA in September for $2.4 billion. Because of the protest, the Government Accountability Office will review NSA’s award of the second Groundbreaker contract to AT&T, which sources tell Nextgov is valued at less than $2 billion.

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Because the Groundbreaker contract is classified, the grounds for DXC Technology’s protest are unknown, and calls for comment by Nextgov to attorneys representing DXC Technology and AT&T were not returned. The NSA also did not respond to requests for comment.

GAO will issue a decision on whether to deny, dismiss or sustain the protest by Jan. 18. In the meantime, the NSA cannot legally move forward on work under AT&T’s contract. Instead, the NSA is likely to continue operations under its old Groundbreaker contract, which was set to expire on Sept. 30 and is held by CSRA.

The NSA is expected to award its third and final Groundbreaker contract in the coming months.

Historically, the Groundbreaker program marked a major change for the NSA, allowing it to “refocus assets on the agency’s core missions of providing foreign signals intelligence and protecting U.S. national security-related information systems by turning over several information technology infrastructure services for industry’s purview,” then NSA-director Michael Hayden said in 2001.

Groundbreaker called on a group of contractors called the Eagle Alliance—led by Computer Sciences Corporation, which is now CSRA—to build the NSA’s computer hardware and IT infrastructure, including its own private cloud.