FAA expands telecom network contract

The Federal Aviation Administration last month restructured and increased the value of its four-year-old data networking contract because of a greater demand for network management services.

The Agency Data Telecommunications Network 2000 (ADTN 2000) contract was awarded in 1994 for about $18 million to Government Systems Inc., which later was acquired by CACI International Inc.

ADTN 2000 is the primary nonoperational data communications network used by the FAA and the Coast Guard, and it provides wide-area network services such as e-mail and Internet access. To date, 300 sites have been connected to the network, and the amount of traffic has grown 700 percent, said Peter Sweers, director of Transportation Department programs at CACI.

"There are about 1.5 terabytes of traffic carried on the network," Sweers said. "It's a global, secure intranet that serves not only the FAA and Coast Guard in the United States, but also [organizations] overseas."

Unexpected Growth

Due to the unexpected growth of ADTN 2000, CACI filed a claim in May 1997 with the Defense Information and Telecommunications Office, which originally awarded the contract on behalf of the FAA. CACI asked the office to restructure ADTN 2000 so that the company could receive more money for network management services, which were in greater demand as network use increased.

"We agreed to work with the company to address the contract structure that created the problem," said Doug Kay, division manager for the Leased Communications Division at the FAA. "The network had grown more rapidly than expected. What changed in the contract is the way price for network management service is [calculated], so as the network grows, [the FAA] pays the appropriate costs. There wasn't the flexibility in there to pay for increasingly large contracts."

While the FAA and CACI were in negotiations to restructure the contract, the agency agreed to pay CACI an additional $350,000 a month for network management services. Kay said the final price is less than $350,000, but he declined to say how much. The price, he added, is tied closely to the size and growth of the network. ADTN 2000 will continue to grow as demand for new applications increases, Kay said.

"The FAA is getting more information-intensive, and more applications need data communications. It's the same kind of growth you see in the rest of the industry," he said.

Video, including distance learning, is an application that Sweers expects to get more use in the near future. About 20 sites already have desktop and room videoconferencing capabilities, and "the FAA sees the prospects of that [application] really taking off," he said. In addition, ADTN 2000 is secure and ensures information delivery, making it appropriate for agencies to conduct electronic commerce, Sweers said.

CACI expects to add about 20 sites per month to ADTN 2000, according to Sweers. There are about 45,000 employees in the FAA and 25,000 employees in the Coast Guard who use the network. Eventually, the network will connect 1,125 sites.

Meanwhile, the FAA is considering recompeting ADTN 2000 next year when the five-year base period is up. However, it has not made a decision on whether it will recompete it or exercise the option years.

Restructuring the contract makes sense, said Bob Dornan, a senior vice president with Federal Sources Inc.

"It's quite feasible that as new requirements evolve that are beyond what was originally envisioned, the vendor shouldn't shoulder that expense," Dornan said. "There are also times when a vendor comes in and says, 'We can save you money.' There is lots of give and take. Every situation has to be looked at on its own merits."

*********

AT A GLANCE

ADTN 2000

* The FAA's and Coast Guard's primary nonoperational communications network.* Provides wide-area network services such as e-mail and Internet access.* 300 sites are connected to the network, and traffic has increased 700 percent.

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