Field set for FAA scrimmage

Federal Aviation Administration managers likely will face tough choices

as they review proposals submitted by the three teams vying for the agency's

$2 billion FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) contract.

FTI aims to integrate the management of multiple telecommunications

networks for air traffic operations and administrative systems that are

reaching the end of their lease terms or their useful lives.

Three teams, led by Harris Corp., Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management

and WorldCom Inc., submitted proposals Nov. 13 and responses to a sample

airspace problem on Dec. 4. The next submissions — cost proposals — are

due in late January. The contract will likely be awarded in late summer

2001.

"We're pleased that we have competition, which of course is our objective,"

said Steve Dash, FAA acquisition manager for telecommunications. In the

early stages of drafting the FTI solicitation, potential vendors worried

that the Transportation Department's decision to implement the governmentwide

FTS 2001 telecom contract with WorldCom would make competition difficult.

The FAA then worked with the vendors to clarify its FTI strategy.

New questions about the security of FTI — which will consolidate the

FAA's telecommunications networks for operational air traffic control communications

and for administrative functions such as payroll and safety reports — were

raised at a congressional hearing in September by Kenneth Mead, DOT inspector

general. After finding several internal and external vulnerabilities in

DOT's systems, Mead said FTI should be delayed until security threats associated

with connecting operational and administrative networks can be addressed.

The FAA and the FTI bidders were prepared. Each team is loaded with

information-security expertise, and the lead vendors are keeping security

a priority in their proposals.

"The [inspector general] has appropriately identified security in general

as an appropriate priority for FTI," Dash said. "The matter he raised, we

believe, has some merit."

The FTI network being procured has security requirements in it, Dash

said, but beyond the contract, the FAA is establishing criteria that must

be met for systems to be connected to FTI.

"That's really an issue that we, as a program office, are taking up

with subsystems that will connect to FTI," Dash said.

The security issue of connecting operational and administrative traffic

is a myth, said Robert Coulson, FTI business development lead for Harris.

Security at the FAA is not necessarily an issue of encryption. "Some of

the most important issues to FAA are not the content of the message but

the authentication of the message," Coulson said. "Is this really a controller

and really a pilot talking to each other?"

On the administrative side, the content of the messages may be more

important, but systems integrators and telecom carriers have experience

prioritizing messages and meeting those types of requirements even on integrated

networks, he said.

WorldCom is responding to both the inspector general's concerns and

Presidential Decision Directive 63, which directs agencies to secure critical

infrastructure systems by 2003, said Roland Fritz, director of DOT networks

for WorldCom's government division.

"There must be physical and logical separation between the two traffic

types, and our proposal supports that," Fritz said. "The FAA was way out

in front of this security focus for next-generation networks. We keyed off

of that and that's why we selected [Science Applications International Corp.]

to complement our own security capabilities."

SAIC also will be a full partner in the integration, he said.

Lockheed Martin is counting on its experience — and AT&T's — with

providing highly secure communications to defense agencies to help provide

the same reliability and security to the FAA, said Don Antonucci, president

of Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management. Because of the significant cost

benefits of tying together the FAA's networks, Lockheed will find a way

to time-share the lines in a secure fashion, he said.

WorldCom will serve as the integrator for its team and will design and manage the implementation and operation of the resulting network, Fritz said.

MAKING CONNECTION

The following three vendor teams are vying for the FAA Telecommunications

Infrastructure contract:

* WorldCom Inc. (lead)

* Science Applications International Corp.

* Crown Consulting Inc.

* Telcordia Technologies Inc.

———-

* Harris Corp. (lead)

* Sprint

* Verizon Communications

* SBC Communications Inc.

* Raytheon Technical Services Co.

* BellSouth

* Qwest Communications

* Hi-Tec Systems Inc.

* Sensis Corp.

* Litton Denro

* Motorola Inc.

* Cisco Systems Inc.

———-

* Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management (lead)

* AT&T

* CACI International Inc.

* ARINC Inc.

* Motorola Inc.

* Jerry Thompson & Associates Inc.

* SETA Corp.

* National Institute for Aviation Research

* Aviation Concepts Inc.

* Alcatel

* Cisco Systems Inc.

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