Missile defense initiatives will lead to IT work

President Bush's decision Dec. 17 to begin fielding missile defense platforms by 2004 or 2005 creates expanded opportunity for information technology companies.

"This is extremely significant for the IT community. These types of platforms always have an inordinate amount of IT built into them," said Ray Bjorklund, a vice president with IT research and consulting firm Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

According to the Defense Department announcement, the initial work will serve as a test bed for improved capabilities to be unveiled later. It will involve upgrading test facilities in Fort Greely, Alaska, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and on Navy ships to include working interceptors capable of destroying incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In addition, mobile short range interceptors, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems as well as detection sensors and radar will be deployed.

"What we've announced today is a very modest initial interceptor inventory and an investment that provides a useful defense capability, but one that ... has limitations," said J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of Defense for International Security during a press briefing.

To facilitate the system, the Defense Department will seek an extra $1.6 billion in funding over the next two years, according to the Washington Post.

"What we intend to do is to take the infrastructure that we are building in the test bed, and instead of waiting to decide ... to make it operational, we will attempt to make it operational from the beginning, starting now. That's the big change," said Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, director of the Missile Defense Agency. Previously, approval of a missile defense system hinged on successful platform tests.

In October, Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif., won a $270 million contract to support MDA with scientific, engineering and technical assistance. Aaron Fuller, vice president and general manager of CSC's Advanced Missile Defense unit, declined to comment on the accelerated timetable.

In October, SRA International Inc., Fairfax, Va., won a task order worth an estimated $20 million to help design an enterprise information management system for MDA.

In December, Madison Research Corp., Huntsville, Ala., was selected by the Department of Defense for a $62 million, six-year contract to support Huntsville supercomputing center for the agency.

Although much of the work thus far has been for development, companies involved can use the working knowledge for deployment contracts, Bjorklund said. However, opportunities will be available for other contractors as well.

"Sometimes the government will want to create a sense of competition, so it will require a contractor to develop a working drawing of how [the platform] is designed. That becomes government property and the government can turn it over to other vendors to help produce it," Bjorklund said. "It is not prudent for the government to rely on any one vendor to produce a line item. You want to have alternative vendors in case the main vendor gets sold off or goes bankrupt."

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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