DHS releases draft solicitation for BioWatch Gen-3

The Department of Homeland Security began a contract competition on Friday for a major fiscal year 2013 contract with the release of a draft announcement seeking support for the latest version of BioWatch.

The draft request for quote said that the DHS plans to hold an industry day for contractors interested in bidding on the BioWatch Gen-3 program, the most recent version of the biological agent detection program. The DHS has yet to identify a date for the industry event, HSToday.us reports.

Deltek, a Herndon, Va.-based consulting firm, listed BioWatch Gen-3 as the only program from the DHS in its top 20 federal opportunities for contractors for fiscal year 2013. The project represents a potential $3.1 billion value over five years.

"This acquisition will include acquiring autonomous biodetectors, for both indoor and outdoor use, that continuously monitor the air for agents of biological concern, and all necessary IT, equipment, consumables and technical support for the nation-wide deployment, operations and maintenance of this autonomous biodetection capability in support of the BioWatch program," Deltek said, according to HSToday.us. "The Gen-3 Autonomous Detection System will operate in state and local government controlled BioWatch jurisdictions participating in the BioWatch program under the guidance of the DHS and in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

In 2003, the DHS established the BioWatch program in 30 major urban areas in the U.S. to defend against biological terrorist threats through the early detection of harmful airborne substances.

One of the main goals of BioWatch Gen-3 is to speed up detection time. BioWatch currently takes at least 12 hours to confirm the presence of a biological contaminant using a labor-intensive process of picking up samples and bringing them to the lab for analysis, HSToday.us reports.

"Coupled with a 24-hour collection cycle, the time to detect ranges from 12 to 36 hours, depending on when a terrorist release occurs," the draft RFQ said, according to HSToday.us. "There is a need to shorten the time to detect even further, to between (two and six) hours to facilitate rapid response actions and decisions."