AAI gets $160M contract

The Defense Department recently awarded a $160 million contract to Maryland-based AAI Corp. to provide operation and maintenance support for biological detection systems used worldwide through 2009.

In turn, AAI awarded Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute a $33 million subcontract to provide logistics support, such as training and supplying field technicians and subject matter experts, for a significant number of automated and manual biodetection systems used by the military.

According to Jeff Hodge, a project manager at Battelle, the organization will maintain and operate some systems, such as the Joint Portal Shield, which uses an automated network of sensors to detect biological attacks.

"We operate the systems at various places around the world, and we also maintain and repair them, upgrade them, look for enhancements to do them for reliability and maintainability," he said.

However, other systems that will be in use in the future, such as the Joint Biological Point Detection System (JBPDS) and the Joint Biological Standoff Detection System (JBSDS), will become "organic" repair systems, meaning the military will be able to operate and maintain the systems themselves and contractors will no longer be involved, Hodge said. Battelle officials are working with other contractors to design and build those biodetection systems.

JBSDS will operate at a fixed site or from a stationary position on a mobile platform. It will identify potential threats from a distance. JBPDS will identify biological agents in the air at very low levels when a cloud passes over the point detection systems, triggering local and remote warning systems.

A significant aspect of winning the contract, Hodge added, is the opportunity for contractors to get information about the failures, reliability issues and other problems with systems in the field, which will help the production team make enhancements to systems while they're still in production.

"In a roundabout way, it sounds crazy," he said, "but we're saving the government a significant amount of money because we won't make modifications in the field later on because we're doing it in production."

Another component of the contract is developing field-deployable test equipment that can diagnose failures, repair systems and have them operational within a matter of hours or days, rather than weeks or months.

Hodge said such systems are actually quite reliable. "But any kind of reliability wants to be even higher," he said. "You can be 99 percent reliable. You still want to be 100 percent."

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