FAA awards modernization deal

An embattled air traffic modernization program potentially worth $1 billion has finally gotten off the ground after two protests by Raytheon Co.

Following an alternative dispute resolution, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded the first phase of the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) contract to a group led by Lockheed Martin Corp. that now boasts Raytheon as a subcontractor. The program will modernize 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 is pleased to perform as a major subcontractor to Lockheed Martin for ERAM, and we are confident that the FAA will be getting a world-class team to provide a solution for modernization of the world's most complex en route [air traffic management] system," Steve Teel, vice president of business development for Raytheon's command, control, communications and information systems, said in a June 28 news release.

And Lockheed, apparently, is pleased to return the favor. The company has joined Raytheon's team on another big project, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), which is swapping aging equipment for new color displays, processors and computer software at 173 air traffic control facilities and 199 Defense Department sites.

"The resolution brings together the nation's most experienced air traffic management system providers to deliver the best technology across the en route and terminal domains," according to a June 28 statement by Lockheed officials. "That's a win for the FAA, the airlines, and most importantly, the flying public, who will benefit from a more efficient and secure air traffic control system."

The FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition upheld a protest by Raytheon a year ago against the decision to make a sole-source award for ERAM to Lockheed.

Raytheon then filed a second protest, in part over the criteria the FAA planned to use to judge proposals for an open bid. The company took issue with the emphasis on previous work, specifically en route projects, and lodged a complaint March 29, the same day potential offerors identified team members, officials said. The company also contended that Lockheed had an unfair competitive advantage.

The FAA agreed to pursue an alternative dispute resolution that ultimately resulted in the double partnership. The agency expects to make a full award to Lockheed for the implementation of ERAM in October, officials said.

"We believe that this partnership with Lockheed Martin will leverage the best capabilities of both companies to offer the FAA effective solutions for ERAM and STARS bridging the terminal and en route airspace," Bob Eckel, vice president of Raytheon Air Traffic Management Systems, said in the release.

Also on the ERAM lineup are Computer Sciences Corp., Boeing Co., Harris Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and several smaller companies.

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

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