Northrop, Raytheon Team Up for Airport Security Bid
By DAVID GREENBERG
Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co. are the front-runners among four groups pursuing a $3 billion contract to install explosion detection devices in the nation’s 429 commercial airports.
The companies are considered the ones to beat since both have experience installing large electronic systems and would be able to meet the end-of-the-year deadline mandated by Congress in getting all the nation’s airports equipped to screen 100 percent of checked baggage.
Raytheon has been installing the machines at some airports under a separate Federal Aviation Administration contract since 1996.
But company officials said they lacked the manpower to meet the deadline, so they chose Northrop and 550 employees from its Electronic Systems and Information Technology units to install and integrate the machines. The two units already are training some of the nation’s 30,000 airport baggage screeners on how to use the explosion detection systems that Raytheon has installed.
Northrop’s Electronic Systems unit makes systems for various air and land combat vehicles, automation and business information systems, and just finished installing 500 mail-sorting machines in post offices in all 50 states.
In addition to training baggage screeners, the Information Technology unit manages a variety of databases for government agencies, including the Department of Justice and the FBI.
Teams led by Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and TRW Inc. also are competing for the five-year Transportation Security Administration award, which is expected to include an initial $1 billion allotment followed by $2 billion to as much as $3 billion for upgrades of the bomb detection systems.
“(Raytheon) is already doing it and the others would start from scratch. It already has got the people and the production line,” said Paul Nesbit, a partner at JSA Research Inc., a Newport, R.I. defense research firm.
Funding was to be awarded in late April, but TSA officials said they underestimated the time it would take to choose a contractor. Northrop’s share of the overall contract would be 40 percent.
Monitoring facility planned
The winning team will also create a command center near TSA’s Washington headquarters to monitor all airport-screening procedures.
Northrop’s Electronic Systems and Information Technology sectors, based in Baltimore and Herndon, Va., respectively, would perform nearly all the work if it gets the contract. Plans call for the creation of 225 new positions at those facilities.
Although L.A.-based work would be limited to a handful of engineers surveying local airports, the contract would nevertheless represent a boon for the Los Angeles-based defense giant.
“This is a significant contract,” said Randy Belote, a Northrop spokesman. “It’s the first large program implemented by the government for homeland security to improve security at the airports. We feel our integration capabilities, coupled with our previous experience and expertise, positions us well.”
The winning team will survey all airports to determine how many devices are needed, which models are most suitable and where they would be placed.
Five companies manufacture the systems that the winning team will be installing. InVision Technologies Inc. of Newark, Calif., and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. of New York both make the Explosive Detection System (EDS), a pickup truck-sized machine that operates similar to a CAT-scan to detect explosives and drugs in baggage. They cost an average of $800,000 each.
Also to be installed is a smaller device made by Barringer Instruments Inc. of Warren, N.J., Thermo Detection of Chelmsford, Mass. and Ion Track Inc. of Wilmington, Mass., called the Explosive Trace Detection System (ETDS), which detects chemical and explosive residue by rubbing a hand-held wand against the inside lining of luggage. They cost $40,000 each.
The TSA, formed after the terrorist attacks, plans to order 6,000 trace detectors and 1,100 explosive detection systems.
Systems in use
Raytheon has installed 185 explosive detection and 635 trace detection machines in more than 50 airports under the 1996 FAA contract that, to date, has generated $186 million.
Salt Lake City International Airport is the only facility in the nation that has 100 percent screening capabilities a job Raytheon completed in 45 days for the Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, TSA officials said they are concerned about what they deem to be an unacceptably high rate of false readings by the explosive detection devices.
TSA officials said the accuracy rates are classified and would not elaborate.
Raytheon said it is working with manufacturers to solve the problems, which defense officials said will not delay implementation. “That’s why you have the trace detectors as a backup,” said Dave Shea, a Raytheon spokesman.
With delays in awarding the contract no new announcement date has been set TSA officials could not say whether the Dec. 31 implementation deadline would be met.