Md. firm to fight narcoterrorism

The Baltimore Sun

ARINC Inc., which has spent the past eight decades supplying airlines with communications technology, said yesterday that it plans to also fight "narcoterrorism" - the flow of illegal drugs that finance terrorists - as part of a Department of Defense contract worth up to $15 billion.

The Annapolis company is one of five chosen from a pool of applicants to compete for jobs under the five-year contract, which was awarded by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. That agency supports the U.S. Department of Defense Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office.

An official at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command confirmed the contract's existence yesterday, but could not provide details. Telephone calls to the counter-narcoterrorism office were not returned.

The trade publication, Washington Technology, reported other winners as Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrup Grumman Corp., Blackwater USA and Raytheon Technical Services Co.

The companies will compete for orders, including anti-drug technologies, special-purpose vehicles and aircraft, security training and advanced communications. Most of the work will be done outside the United States in areas such as Afghanistan and Colombia.

What projects will be awarded to whom and how much they will be worth is undecided at this point, said Kerry Beresford, senior director of ARINC's Advanced Aviation Applications, which is based in Oklahoma.

Still, he called the contract a "huge win" for ARINC. Assuming it was split evenly among the companies, each would take in $3 billion - or three times ARINC's 2006 revenue.

The company works with a U.S. Department of State program to thwart drug traffic in South America and Central America by modifying aircraft or providing operations and training support. Work under this contract would allow ARINC to expand the footprint, Beresford said.

The company, owned by the six largest U.S. airlines, is in the process of being acquired by the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based private equity firm. The deal, which is awaiting regulatory approval, is expected to close next month.

ARINC was founded in 1929 as the sole provider of nongovernment radio communication for the airline industry, and its technology is still the standard used today.

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