FAA, contractors resolve differences

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

Following an alternate 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 Air Traffic Management that now includes 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.

"This sounds like a reasonable solution," said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. "It's a Solomon-like decision. They split the baby and tried to take care of two of their biggest contract support providers."

And not only the vendors supported the outcome. "It's good for everyone involved," said Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "We're looking forward to moving ahead with the project."

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.

"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.

The FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisitions 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. "Once it goes bad, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle," Mather said. "The real message here is if it's possible to compete it, don't try to go sole source."

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

"For us, it was important to get to the point where we can actually start working the ERAM program," said Thad Madden, a spokesman for Lockheed.

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