The Air Force will soon open competition for a $21 billion training contract for aircraft that includes the B-1 bomber. (Mark Dadswell / Getty Images)
The Air Force is close to opening competition on a new $21 billion aircraft training contract worth seven times as much as the contract it will replace.
The Training Systems Acquisition (TSA) III contract is intended to provide training systems for nearly 40 Air Force aircraft and other programs, such as the C-17 cargo plane and the B-1 bomber, said Rick Fennell, the program manager for the contract. Task orders on the existing TSA II contract have already hit the $3 billion ceiling years ahead of its 2016 expiration, he said.
A draft solicitation for TSA III will be released by Jan. 27 with the final solicitation expected by the end of March., Fennell said. Contract awards for TSA III are expected in early 2013.
Seventy-seven companies are listed as interested vendors for the contract on FedBizOpps.com. Among the 11contractors on TSA II, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins, Boeing, CAE, L-3 Communications, Flight Safety Services Corp. and LB&B Associates are listed as interested vendors for TSA III.
Fennell said he anticipates a dozen large businesses and five to seven small businesses will have a place on the multiple award contract, which has a five-year base with five one-year extension options. But the number of awardees is not limited at this point, he said.
"If they meet our criteria, they will have a seat," Fennell said.
The Air Force will hold another competition midway through the contract to add companies that may not be ready to compete now, Fennell said.
The biggest change to the contract is how it will be managed, Fennell said.
The contract team for TSA II was disbanded after its award in 2001, so there was no central repository of information on the contractors and what they were qualified to do, Fennell said. In many cases, a program office would ask companies to resubmit information they had provided before award, he said. The programs then spent weeks to months re-evaluating the information to put a task order solicitation together, he said.
The TSA III contract team is planning to put together a "menu of services" so programs have an easier time seeing what a company has been pre-qualified to do, which should reduce the time on awarding task orders to days, he said.