FAA opens contract for bids

The Federal Aviation Administration has opened competition for an air traffic modernization project, potentially worth $1 billion, that was the subject of a contract protest.

The screening information request (SIR), released March 15, came nearly a year after the FAA Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition upheld a protest by Raytheon Co. against the decision to make a sole-source award to Lockheed Martin Corp. to modernize the computer hardware and software at the agency's 20 en route centers. The centers take over air traffic control after an aircraft leaves an airport's airspace.

This time around, the contract for the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program is out for bid. The FAA plans to narrow the field to two vendors, then award a final contract in the second quarter of 2003, said Tammy Jones, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Raytheon objected after the FAA announced on its Web site in February 2001 its intent to go with Lockheed in a move to save time and money. Lockheed has previous experience replacing displays and updating hardware in the en route centers.

Raytheon also has FAA contracts, including the development of its satellite-based navigation system.

"We are definitely interested and responding to the SIR," said Judy Gan, a spokeswoman for Lockheed. "Our real interest in this is because we believe ERAM is a national upgrade program. It will address airspace capacity issues while enhancing safety."

The FAA still hopes to complete the modernization by 2008, the year the center's IBM Corp. mainframes will be unable to run the agency's software.

"We still want to move as quickly as possible to get the upgrades done," Jones said, despite the lost time.

"There is a sense of urgency here," Gan said.

Qualified vendors have until March 22 to turn in a written notice of their intent to submit a proposal and to identify a subcontractor point of contact.

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