FAA taps Hughes for $100 million contract

The Federal Aviation Administration last week selected Hughes Information Technology Systems to develop a centralized management system that will help the agency keep its new and aging equipment and facilities working.

The National Airspace System (NAS) Infrastructure Management System (NIMS) a contract potentially worth $100 million will help the FAA Airway Facilities organization monitor control and maintain radar navigation aids communication facilities and other widely distributed mission-critical components that make up the nation's airspace system.

NIMS is essential to handle the increasing complexity of the NAS modernization which is being conducted under separate initiatives said Jeff Hmara infrastructure integrated product team leader at the FAA. "As we modernize the NAS the complexity and scope of responsibilities for operations and maintenance will grow but the work force and other resources in all likelihood will not " Hmara said. "That's what NIMS wants to meet."

NIMS will allow a regional operations control center to receive notification that equipment needs to be repaired or is ready for routine maintenance. The system also will provide information about personnel available to perform the work. And field technicians making repairs will be equipped with laptops to remotely access diagnostic information and quickly inform the control center when the job is completed the FAA said. One national operations control center will present the current status of all components in the NAS Hmara said.

NIMS will allow the FAA to remotely control systems in the NAS. "Radar has the capability to operate on multiple channels so if one goes down - we can via remote control using NIMS - switch from one channel to another " Hmara said. "NIMS is not only repairing equipment but also knowing the current status [scheduling] preventative maintenance and controlling equipment remotely."

NIMS will replace a mix of legacy systems and subsystems and offer a significant improvement over today's systems capability. NIMS will be built with commercial products.

The FAA will take a "managed evolutionary approach" to developing NIMS as it transitions from the legacy systems relying heavily on prototype development.

"One of the things the FAA does need help with is maintaining the existing system to keep it reliable " said Ray Hilton director of air traffic management at the Air Transport Association. The "FAA has a mix of ancient and new equipment. When equipment fails it affects the efficiency of the operations so whatever the FAA can do to beef up the effectiveness of maintaining the existing systems is important to us."Developing a centralized system makes sense Hilton added. "It's a better way of managing limited maintenance resources and [it will] be more effective."

Tom Brantley national vice president at Professional Airways Systems Specialists a union representing Airway Facilities technical employees said that while he likes the concept of NIMS he would like the technicians to have more access and control. "I believe the tools should be in the hands of the people that really need them."

E. Bruce Bennett business development manager at Hughes said the contract is significant because it is the first large FAA contract awarded to Hughes Information Technology Systems.

NIMS is a three-year contract with two two-year options.

Subcontractors include Wang Government Services The Fortier Group and Universal Systems & Technology Inc. Other bidders may include Electronic Data Systems Corp. Computer Sciences Corp. GTE Government Systems Corp. Harris Computer Systems Corp. and Unisys Corp.

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