The US Federal Aviation Administration has been forced to rethink the award of a several hundred million dollar national airspace system (NAS) software contract to Lockheed Martin after a government review concluded the agency bypassed bidding procedures.

The FAA awarded the en- route automation modernisation (ERAM) in March without a competitive tender, saying the air traffic control system provider was the clear choice and offered lower technical, cost and schedule risks.

Competitor Raytheon complained, forcing a review of the process. Two government officers - a hearing officer in the FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition and a judge for the US General Services Agency Board of Contract Appeals - recommended that the agency reassess the contract award. The judge said the FAA failed to justify bypassing normal competitive bidding procedures in favour of a sole source award.

The FAA says a contract will be awarded once the agency decides whether to seek competitive bids or give additional justification for giving the work to Lockheed Martin without soliciting other bids.

ERAM includes replacing software at 20 sites in the host computer system (HCS). Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the host and oceanic computer system replacement and is responsible for HCS sustainment. The firm is also prime contractor on the FAA's display system replacement and user request evaluation tool projects.

The ERAM programme addresses concerns with the long-term viability of NAS software. The FAA says the en-route ATC automation system is a mix of technologies which are the result of "a piecemeal evolution of capabilities".

Source: Flight International