Raytheon protests FAA competition

Raytheon Co. has filed its second protest against an air traffic modernization project potentially worth $1 billion, in part over the criteria the Federal Aviation Administration will use to judge proposals.

"We believe the playing field isn't level and that we have a valid, compelling reason for this action," said Blanche Necessary, a spokeswoman for Raytheon.

FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution upheld a protest by Raytheon a year ago 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.

Raytheon objected after the agency announced on its Web site in February 2001 its intent to go with Lockheed in a money- and time-saving maneuver.

In this latest round, the contract for the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program is open for bidding. In a screening information request (SIR) released March 15, FAA identified four factors that will count in its evaluation: approach, capabilities, experience and past performance.

Raytheon took issue with the emphasis on previous work, particularly on en route projects, and lodged a complaint March 29, the same day potential offerors identified team members, officials said. It also contends Lockheed has an unfair competitive advantage.

Both companies reviewed drafts of the SIR and were allowed to submit comments, officials said.

"We believe the protest is without merit," Lockheed said in a statement. "We are distressed that this vital national priority upgrade that has already been delayed by a year due to Raytheon's initial protest risks further delays due to their current protest of the competition they desired."

The company, whose team includes Boeing Co., has more than 30 years of experience updating and maintaining technology at en route centers.

Raytheon, which has three programs on the Transportation Department Inspector General's watch list, also has worked with en route and terminal air traffic management systems.

"We believe Raytheon has excellent credentials and available technology for this program," Necessary said. "Our performance on all of our FAA programs is good and we have always delivered to our FAA customers the quality systems they ask for."

FAA aimed to complete the en route modernization by 2008, the end-of-life date for the IBM Corp. mainframes that run the agency's software.

"The events of September 11 would suggest improvements to the National Airspace System infrastructure are of paramount importance," Don Antonucci, president of Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management, said in the statement. "Action, not delay, is needed."

FAA could decide today whether to suspend procurement, sources said. Bids are due April 15.

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