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Telephone Interpreting Firms Compete for U.S. Federal Dollars
Posted by Nataly Kelly on March 3, 2010  in the following blogs: Interpreting, Business Globalization, Best Practices
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This morning, California-based Language Line Services announced that the company was chosen to provide nationwide interpreting services for asylum proceedings -- both in person and via telephone -- for the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. While the total potential award amount was not disclosed, the asylum contract is just one of a string of federal contracts that is attracting the attention of telephone interpreting vendors at the moment.

We called the Department of Justice to learn more about some of the other agreements currently in the procurement process. "There are two blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) in place for unscheduled telephonic interpreting with the DOJ that are due to expire at the end of March 2010," said David D. Johnson, Contracting Officer. "As of April 1st, there will be two new BPAs in place, either with the existing vendors -- Lionbridge and Language Services Associates -- or with others." Johnson estimates the value of these two agreements combined at approximately US$200,000 per year.

According to the Federal Procurement Data System, Language Line has been awarded five other federal contracts for telephone interpreting in the first two months of 2010, totaling a little over a half a million dollars ($516,308) -- nearly all of that amount ($510,858) came from an agency with a domestic focus, the Internal Revenue Service.

Since 2000, Language Line has captured more than US$8 million in federal telephone interpreting contracts. During the same period, competitor Language Services Associates (LSA) was awarded 233 language services contracts for a total of nearly US$11 million. Cyracom also plays in the federal space, with 24 contracts since 2003 that total about US$400,000.

However, telephone interpreting is just one piece of the bigger interpreting picture. Far larger amounts have been awarded to providers of on-site interpreting services, as detailed in our full report on language services and the federal government. Lionbridge holds the granddaddy of all federal interpreting contracts, currently valued at US$15 million per year through 2014.

And, last week, Northrop Grumman received another large "linguist support services" contract for more than US$9 million. Whether or not telephone interpreting may someday replace a portion of high-risk on-site military interpreting work remains to be seen, but it would certainly remove more humans from harm's way.

While military interpreting still accounts for the majority of U.S. federal contracts, the growing phenomenon of domestic multilingualism in the United States has been generating more telephone interpreting opportunities in recent years -- and we expect this trend to continue.


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Keywords: Government market studies, Interpreting, Language policy, Telephone interpreting

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