Raytheon left standing after FAA down-select

The Federal Aviation Administration reportedly has eliminated all but one vendor - Raytheon - from the competitive range for its $200 million Integrated Terminal Weather System procurement.I

TWS will allow air traffic controllers and airlines to better anticipate weather conditions in the airspace surrounding airports by pulling weather data from multiple sources to provide more accurate and timely weather information.

According to industry sources the FAA plans to award the contract to Raytheon and conduct debriefings in October when its 1997 funding becomes available. The FAA confirmed a down-select took place but would not confirm the number or identity of the remaining bidders.

"We have a letter stating we are in the competitive range but we have nothing saying we are the only vendor " a Raytheon spokeswoman said. Raytheon has not been told what the FAA plans to do next she added.

At least four other vendors bid on the program: Computer Sciences Corp. Lockheed Martin Corp. Motorola Inc. and PRC Inc.

"CSC along with our competitors invested considerable amounts of time effort and money in pursuing this opportunity " a CSC spokesman said. "Obviously we are disappointed since we put together a competitive proposal with a world-class team."

Other vendors declined to comment for the record but also said the FAA's decision took the whole field by surprise.

In part the bidders were surprised because so little discussion had taken place since proposals were due in April. For the most part the FAA asked only minor follow-up questions and never called for best and final offers several vendors said.

The whole process raises questions about how the FAA plans to conduct procurements under its Acquisition Management System one vendor said.

Since the FAA issued the ITWS solicitation the agency has been freed from most federal acquisition regulations and is operating under its own set of rules. That in itself is not a problem but industry is still unsure about the unwritten rules the FAA seems to be following.

"We all have to understand the `why ' `what' and `where' " as the FAA makes these kinds of decisions the vendor said.

"Given the competence of the talented companies involved...we are shocked the competition was not down-selected to the top two [bidders] " another vendor said.

The FAA's process for making a down-select highlights the dangers of acquisition reform said Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. "The government has got to be able to make some intelligent decisions here and to be able to justify them."

If vendors do not believe they can get a fair hearing at the FAA - which set up its own Office of Dispute Resolution - they can take it to the courts Dornan said. However the real trump card may be political when vendors take their case to Congress.

"We can lose it all in a big hurry with some nasty headlines and some real horror stories " he said.

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