ERAM procurement draws protest from Raytheon

Raytheon Co. filed a protest March 29 over the acquisition process for the Federal Aviation Administration's En Route Automation Modernization contract, which could be worth as much as $1 billion.

Raytheon protested the ERAM competition against incumbent Lockheed Martin because "we believe the playing field isn't level," said Raytheon spokeswoman Blanche Necessary. She declined, however, further comment because the legal proceeding is still being resolved.

Industry sources said Raytheon was not happy with the language of the screening information request, the FAA's version of a request for proposals. The SIR was released March 15, responses are due April 15.

ERAM is the FAA's program to overhaul and replace decades-old software that controls high-altitude flights through U.S. airspace. The software is written in a language no longer used in the computer industry, making it difficult to maintain or modify.

This is the second protest Raytheon of Lexington, Mass., has filed involving ERAM. The company filed a protest in February 2001 with the FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution over the agency's announcement that it would award a contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. without running a competition.

That protest led to a ruling that the FAA had moved prematurely to award the ERAM contract. After the decision, the agency began a competitive bidding process.

Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Md., said Raytheon's protest is "without merit" and expressed frustration that ERAM would be further delayed.

"We are distressed that this vital national priority upgrade ? that has already been delayed by a year due to Raytheon's initial protest ? risks further delays due to their current protest of the competition they desired," said a statement released by the company.

Industry sources said further delays to ERAM could cause three problems:

*In addition to replacing all the software, the mainframes running the programs reach the end of their lives in 2008.

*Many of the capacity-improving tools being pursued by the FAA to improve operations can't be implemented until ERAM is in place.

*The new ERAM software will include many more capabilities in areas such as data sharing and information security, functions that cannot be retrofitted to the existing system.

"The events of Sept. 11 would suggest improvements to the National Airspace System infrastructure are of paramount importance," said Don Antonucci, president of Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management. "Action, not delay, is needed."

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