FAA seeks to extend contract for old telecom system

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced it will award a follow-on contract to extend existing telecommunications services because work on a new telecommunications system is behind schedule.

Meanwhile, auditors from the Government Accountability Office have proposed abandoning the new system and outsourcing telecommunications services, if delays continue.

Last week, the FAA posted a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site that the agency was seeking to negotiate a single source follow-on contract for the telecommunications network that carries the most critical radar, weather and other data in the nation's air traffic control system. The network that Verizon Business currently provides is called the Leased Interfacility National Airspace System Communications System (LINCS) Bridge.

FAA plans to complete the transition from LINCS to the new FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) by December 2007. However, an April audit by the Transportation Department’s inspector general reports the system is more likely to be completed by November 2009.

FTI’s purpose is to save money by consolidating multiple telecom networks into one.

The new follow-on LINCS contract allows FAA to retain services until September 2009, if necessary. The fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract covers services from March 2007 through March 2008 with three additional six-month option periods.

Federal regulations require the FAA to solicit all companies capable of performing the work, besides the incumbent contractor Verizon.

Verizon is not required to respond to be considered for the follow-on. FAA officials expect to award a contract by late February 2007.

Last week at a Congressional hearing on air traffic control modernization, a GAO official suggested the government end the $310 million FTI program and outsource operations.

FAA officials have informed GAO officials that since the IG made his April assessment, FTI has achieved a significant increase in the rates of transferring over services and disconnecting legacy circuits, said GAO Physical Infrastructures Issues Director Gerald Dillingham, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee.

However, Dillingham said, “To the extent that delays in FTI persist, FAA will not accrue the full extent of the $672 million in cost savings that the program was expected to produce… As an alternative to continuing the current FTI program, some experts have suggested that FAA consider outsourcing this activity, as it did for its flight service stations.”

Harris, the prime contractor for the FTI program, announced last week that it has finished switching the FAA Bulk Weather Telecommunications Gateway services to FTI. These weather services had been running on the FAA Telecommunications Satellite System (FAATSAT), which is separate from LINCS. FAA moved the weather operations from the satellite network to the terrestrial FTI network to save money.


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