May could bring TSA award on $2 billion bomb detection work

Raytheon's Dan Burnham: "The one thing we do know is that technology is changing, and changing quickly. ... We would ... be proud of leading the appropriate technology changes over the next several years."

Moving quickly to meet a congressional deadline, the Transportation Security Administration could award a contract as early as May 1 for a program that would install bomb detection devices at all U.S. airports, according to industry officials.

The five-year contract has an estimated value of nearly $2 billion, according to industry officials vying for it. Prime contractors that have confirmed they are bidding are Boeing Corp., Chicago; Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.; Raytheon Corp., Lexington, Mass.; and TRW Inc., Cleveland.

On the Boeing team is Siemens Corp. of New York. Lockheed Martin is teamed with Bechtel Group Inc., San Francisco. And on the Raytheon team is Northrop Grumman Corp., Los Angeles. TRW declined to disclose its partners.

The winning team will be responsible for equipment installation, training screeners to operate the equipment and system maintenance, according to TSA.

The explosive detection devices that will be installed at the nation's 438 commercial airports are manufactured by InVision Technologies Inc. of Newark, Calif., and L-3 Communications Holdings of New York. They are being procured under a separate contract, according to government and industry sources.

Congress has set a Dec. 31 deadline for having the devices in place.

"This is an integration project [and] not a procurement contract for hardware," said Paul Turk, a TSA spokesman, referring to the Explosive Detection System and Trace Detection System General Contractor project.

Judy Gan, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, described the project as a broad systems integration challenge. "Many techniques we would use to manage information technology projects would be incredibly relevant to this effort," she said.

The competitive field has consolidated since TSA cleared seven companies to serve as the prime contractor earlier this year. Those companies were Boeing; General Dynamics Corp., Falls Church, Va.; Lockheed Martin; Raytheon; Siemens; TRW; and Tyco International Ltd., Exeter, N.H.

For example, General Dynamics has since decided not to bid as a prime on the project but is interested in serving as a subcontractor, said Norine Lyons, a company spokeswoman.

At a press conference earlier this month announcing Raytheon's partnership with Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Burnham said the winning contractor will be responsible not only for installing the systems, but also for keeping abreast of technology changes that may develop over the life of the contract.

"The one thing we do know is that technology is changing, and changing quickly. ... We would also, therefore, be proud of leading the appropriate technology changes over the next several years," he said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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