FAA may reverse Lockheed choice

The Federal Aviation Administration may reverse its proposal to make a sole-source award to Lockheed Martin Corp. for a software and computer modernization program after it receives information about Raytheon Co.'s capabilities this month.

The FAA had been looking at options since late last fall about how to modernize the software that runs the Host computer at 20 en route centers across the country, said Steven Zaidman, FAA associate administrator for research and acquisitions. En route centers take over air traffic control after an aircraft leaves an airport's airspace, typically a 50-mile radius around an airport.

On Feb. 6, the FAA announced its intent to make a single-source award to Lockheed Martin for the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program, which Zaidman estimated to be worth several hundred thousand dollars. The Internet announcement allowed anyone to respond with comments by Feb. 28.

Raytheon, which has FAA contracts that include the development of the agency's satellite-based navigation system, countered the FAA's proposal and was given until March 21 to submit its capabilities and qualifications for meeting the ERAM requirements, Zaidman said.

After Raytheon's submission is reviewed, the FAA may decide to open the competition to any offeror, Zaidman said. Based on Lockheed Martin's experience replacing the displays and updating the hardware for the en route centers during the past few years, FAA officials felt Lockheed Martin would provide the lowest risk option for ERAM, he said. FAA did not initially conduct an open competition because it was trying to save time and avoid expensive bid and proposal costs, he said.

By 2008, the IBM Corp. mainframes in the en route centers will be unable to run the agency's software, which was written in outdated languages called Jovial and Basic Assembly Language, Zaidman said. ERAM would involve rewriting the code into a modern computer language such as C++ and designing a system that could accept future upgrades to the air traffic control system.

Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Julie Vass said the company would be pleased to continue working with the FAA on the en route modernization program and cited its experience replacing systems in preparation for the Year 2000 rollover and its successful Display System Replacement program as evidence of its qualification for the job.

Raytheon did not reply to a request for an interview on Tuesday.

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