BioWatch Gen-3 slips further behind schedule
Plans for deploying a fully-autonomous networked biodetection capability--known as BioWatch Gen-3--have again undergone a delay, with the Homeland Security Department announcing in late August that an anticipated solicitation is now set for late fall or early winter.
An Aug. 20 FedBizOpps notice gives little further detail, only stating that the final request for proposals "has shifted to the first quarter of fiscal 2013." According to an earlier timeline (.pdf), DHS was to have released the final RFP by October 2011 and have awarded a contract with a $3.11 billion ceiling by last May.
The third generation of BioWatch sensors are meant to collect and analyze air samples, as opposed to the current generation, which can only collect air samples in filters that must be manually removed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
BioWatch consumes the majority of OHA's $166.46 million fiscal 2013 request, with DHS requesting Congress approve new budget authority of $125.29 million. According to the fiscal 2013 DHS budget justification (large .pdf), OHA plans on performing an operational test and evaluation of Gen-3 sensors in four U.S. cities.
During an April House hearing, Alexander Garza, the head of the Homeland Security Department's office of health affairs said that only one company's product had made it through the demonstration phase of Gen-3 procurement (the delayed RFP is for the second, deployment phase) .
BioWatch has come under increasing criticism, with a Los Angeles Times investigation stating that BioWatch sensors currently deployed "cannot be counted on to detect a real attack", citing for that assertion confidential government test results and computer modeling. The current sensors are also prone to false alarms, the LA Times states.
The House Homeland Security subcommittee on emergency preparedness, response and communications is set to convene another hearing about BioWatch on Sept. 13.
- go to the FBO notice announcing the BioWatch 3 RFP delay