Air Force's FAST Deal Brings Industry Calling

Air Force's FAST Deal Brings Industry Calling

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer

A $7 billion Air Force contract to provide engineering services and spare parts for aging aircraft and weapons systems is attracting small businesses, as well as some of the largest systems integrators, as the service looks to increase its reliance on small contractors.

The Air Force is preparing to issue a draft request for proposals this month for the Flexible Acquisition and Sustainment Tool contract, known as FAST. The service expects to make awards in November to four large companies and two small businesses for the planned seven-year contract.

The winners will then compete for task orders to supply the Air Force with the engineering services, logistics support and even manufacturing needed to keep aging planes flying and older weapons systems operating, such as the B-52 bomber and KC-10 tanker.

Boeing Co. of Seattle, DynCorp of Reston, Va., and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., are considering bids as prime contractors, industry sources said. Modern Technologies Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, also is planning to lead a team as one of the small-business prime contractors.

Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego is weighing its decision on whether to be a prime bidder, said company spokeswoman Zuraidah Hashim. Anteon Corp. of Fairfax, Va., also is considering whether to bid as a prime or a subcontractor.

CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., has a spot on Lockheed Martin's team, an industry official said. And Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., is evaluating a subcontracting role, most likely with SAIC if that company goes ahead as a prime contractor, another source said.

Litton-TASC Inc. of Chantilly, Va., is talking with both a large company and a small company and could be a subcontractor on two teams, said James Lindenfelser, senior vice president, who runs TASC's federal services strategic business unit.

TASC had considered bidding as a prime, but as the scope of the contract expanded, the company decided that a subcontracting role was best, he said. TASC will bring engineering services capabilities to the team it joins, Lindenfelser said.

While engineering services are a major component of the FAST contract, other capabilities the winning teams will need include systems integration, program management, logistics management, data management and security.

"There is going to be a little bit of something in there for everyone," said Dan Nodes, an analyst with the market research firm Input Inc. of Vienna, Va.

Industry activity around the contract has been relatively quiet, Nodes said, but that is expected to change once the draft RFP is released.

The final RFP is expected to be released in June or July, with the award of contracts being made in November, said Tim Kurtz, acting chief of media relations at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia. Warner Robins is managing the contract, but the Air Force's other logistics centers at Oklahoma City and Ogden, Utah, also will use the contract.

The Air Force will let the contract because it wants a quick, easy-to-use vehicle for developing, buying and distributing the specialized parts and systems that keep planes such as the B-52 bomber flying, Air Force and industry officials said.

"The Air Force isn't buying a lot of new large-scale weapons systems," Lindenfelser said. As the weapons systems age, "the parts supply capabilities disappear," he said.

For example, the Air Force expects the B-52 to fly for 100 years, and the KC-10 is expected to fly for 80 years. To keep the planes in the air, electronics, avionics and mechanical systems must be maintained and upgraded, he said.

In the past, the Air Force has relied on a several different contracts and often uses contracts from other agencies to fill emergency or short-notice needs. These non-Air Force contracts contain surcharges as high as 18 percent, Kurtz said.

Consequently, the FAST contract will save the Air Force money by eliminating the surcharges. Because there will be several winners, the competition for task orders also will create savings, he said.

The FAST contract also has strong requirements for small-business participation, which the Air Force wants to increase, Kurtz said.

At least 15 percent of the money spent through the contract will go to the teams led by small businesses. The large contractors also will have a 23 percent goal for their small-business subcontractors, he said.

Concerns about a lack of small-business participation under the contract have been raised before the House Small Business Committee and may have delayed the released of the draft RFP, which was originally slated for April. But those concerns apparently have been addressed, an industry official said.

Modern Technologies Corp. is planning to lead one of the small-business teams, but is waiting to see the draft RFP before making its final decision, said company spokeswoman Pat Westcott.

"From our perspective as a small business, the Air Force strategy seems to very adequately address small-business concerns and provides small businesses as much if not more opportunity as they currently have," she said.

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