Air Force Contract Draws Top-Tier Integrators

Air Force Contract Draws Top-Tier Integrators

Terry Drabant

By Nick Wakeman

Top systems integrators are lining up to take a shot at a $1 billion-plus contract to update the information technology systems that support sophisticated space command and control functions managed by the Air Force.

The Integrated Space Command and Control contract now being developed by Air Force officials could span 15 years and be worth at least $100 million a year, said Steve Meehan, Air Force contracting officer for the project.

It will bundle several existing contracts under a single prime award, giving the service the ability to develop new systems and ensure that the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Space Command are interoperable with other military command and control systems. The scope of the effort and the prestige associated with a contract of this caliber makes bidding a priority for many companies. The winning contractor must not only oversee operations and maintenance of the space command systems and transformation of 1960s technology, but also assure operations throughout the effort.

A request for proposals is expected to be released in July, and the contract should be awarded by early 2000. Most of the work on the contract is expected to take place at the space command's Cheyenne Mountain facility near Colorado Springs, Colo.

The space command began developing the contract when it became difficult to manage separate contracts for services such as application development, operation and maintenance and hardware procurement, said Col. Mark Cerise, program manager for the Air Force contract.

"That [approach] put the government in the middle in a systems integration role," he said. "What we want is a team of contractors under a prime to take on the integration."

Already designated as "highly qualified primes" by the Air Force are:

*Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif.

*Litton-PRC Inc. of McLean, Va.

*Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md.

*Raytheon Systems Co. of Lexington, Mass.

*TRW Inc. of Cleveland.

These companies are working closely with the Air Force to develop the request for proposals for the effort, but other companies will be free to bid as primes, too, government officials said.

The space command operates satellites that provide navigation, weather, missile warning, satellite communications and intelligence data to the rest of the military. It also operates the ground-based, ballistic missile, early warning radars and coastal, phased-array radars that provide missile warning attack and assessment data.

Lockheed Martin, which has brought on rival Boeing Co. as its first teammate, has emerged as the early favorite in the competition, according to David Steigman, senior analyst with the Teal Group, a Fairfax, Va., research firm.

"A Lockheed-Boeing combination would have just too much strength," Steigman said.

Terry Drabant, president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems, said his company will announce other teammates in the coming weeks, but "with the two of us, we make an unbeatable team."

In addition to drawing on its own experience and past performance credentials, Lockheed Martin can point to significant Boeing wins. They include the National Missile Defense contract, potentially worth $5.2 billion, that the Seattle-based company won in April.

Ironically, Boeing beat Lockheed Martin for that three-year, $1.6 billion contract, which contains options for up to another seven years worth of work, from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

Drabant said that the missile defense effort that Boeing is leading as the system integrator under that project must work in conjunction with the space command system, Drabant said. "The two are critical to each other," he said.

The TRW team includes:

*ITT Industries Inc. of White Plains, N.Y.

*Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

*IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y.

*Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla.

*Oracle Consulting, the services wing of Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif.

"This is going to be the most important program to the space command for the next 10 to 15 years," said Ken Moore, product line manager for TRW who is in charge of business development for this contract bid.

Among the Air Force contracts held by TRW is one the company won in December 1997 to serve as prime on the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Prime Integration effort. That contract is potentially worth $3 billion over 15 years.

"We have a track record of working on these types of projects," Moore said.

Although past performance will be a major criteria in evaluating the contract proposals, the final weighting has not been established yet, said Cerise. "This is a best value procurement."

Raytheon spokeswoman Blanche Necessary said her company is not prepared to release the names of its teammates but is planning a strong run at the contract.

"We have proven past performance and innovative technology," she said.

Raytheon has won work related to the space command project, including a $500 million effort known as the Command & Control Product Line contract to develop command and control software for the Air Force.

PRC has tapped two of its sister subsidiaries, Litton Data Systems Inc. of Agoura Hills, Calif., and Litton-TASC of Reading, Mass., as teammates, said Mike Elliot, vice president of Defense Department business development at PRC. The company also is negotiating with other subcontractors.

"We are putting together an interesting team," he said, declining to name other potential teammates. PRC has provided various support services at Cheyenne Mountain for 10 years, he said.

CSC is also still assembling its team. "Right now, we are in discussions with several key players, but we don't have a final team yet," said Don Hamilton, director of business development for CSC's Air Force programs.

"We've supported the Air Force on several command and control contracts," said Hamilton.

The company also has worked on Department of Defense efforts that interact with space command systems, he said, such as the Global Command and Control System and Global Combat Support System.

"This is a very complex endeavor," said the Air Force's Cerise.

TRW's Moore likened the complexity of the project to an airplane taking off and having to switch out an engine while in flight.

"The nation cannot afford for Cheyenne Mountain to go down at all," he said.

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