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GAO-09-467R: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

March 10, 2009: 

The Honorable Jerry Costello:
Chairman:
Subcommittee on Aviation:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Responses to Questions for the Record: February 11, 2009, 
Hearing on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009: 

Dear Mr. Chairman: 

This letter responds to your request that we address questions 
submitted for the record related to the February 11, 2009, hearing 
entitled FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009. Our attached responses to 
these questions are based on updates to our previous work (see 
enclosure 2) and our knowledge of the areas addressed by the questions. 

As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents 
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 10 days 
after its issuance date. At that time, we will send copies of this 
report to the Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration. We 
will make copies available to others on request. The report will also 
be available on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the responses, 
please contact me at (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.
Director:
Physical Infrastructure Issues: 

Enclosures: 

[End of section] 

February 11, 2009: 

Subcommittee on Aviation:
Hearing on:
FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009:
Questions for the Record: 

To: Dr. Gerald Dillingham:
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues:
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 

Dr. Dillingham, in your written testimony you state that the FAA will 
need to work with the stakeholders to explore a range of potential 
options available to provide incentives to purchase equipment and to 
suppliers to develop that equipment. You further state that these 
options could include some combination of mandated deadlines, 
operational credits, or equipment investment credits that financially 
support equipment implementation for a limited initial set of aircraft 
operators. Please define what you mean by "operational credits" or 
"equipment investment credits" and explain how they might be used. 

Response: The next generation air transportation system (NextGen) 
includes the policies, procedures, and equipment that will allow 
satellite-based navigation in the national airspace system. However, 
this system's ability to meet forecasted traffic volumes also depends 
on aircraft being equipped to take advantage of NextGen capabilities. 
Purchase incentives could encourage carriers to equip their aircraft as 
soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes the procedures 
for operating in a NextGen environment available. Traditionally, FAA 
mandates the equipage of aircraft and provides several years for 
operators to comply. For a variety of reasons, some operators do not 
equip until the deadline for equipping is near. FAA has proposed an 
option to incentivize early equipage. It is referred to as "best- 
equipped, best-served." Under this option, FAA would offer those 
aircraft operators who choose to equip their aircraft as soon as 
possible with various operational benefits, such as preferred airspace, 
routings, or runway access. 

Another option, conceptualized by a Boeing air traffic management 
expert, is a type of "reverse auction" in which federal investment tax 
credits would be combined with operational benefits. Under this option, 
the carriers would bid for a level of investment credits in exchange 
for equipping a particular number of aircraft within a specified early 
time frame. The value of the investment credit would decrease as the 
auction proceeded. Those aircraft that were equipped would then operate 
under the best-equipped, best-served option. The Boeing expert has 
acknowledged that the total resources needed to pay for such tax 
credits would be quite large if the credits were extended to all 
carriers. However, he acknowledged that if the tax credit were extended 
only to a "critical mass" of carriers--for example, the first third of 
the carriers--the costs would be about $750 million annually. He 
further stated that if the auction drove down the price by a third, the 
costs could be about $500 million a year. But these costs would be over 
and above what FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO) would already be 
spending on its own equipment, facilities, and training. In any case, 
the proposal could only be implemented if Congress were to find some 
additional large source of funding for the tax credits. 

2. Dr. Dillingham, in your written testimony you state that the FAA has 
entered into agreements with private sector firms to conduct NextGen 
technology demonstration projects. Please provide the Subcommittee with 
a list of these projects. 

Response: FAA's NextGen demonstration projects for fiscal year 2009 are 
listed in the following table. Some projects are in the early planning 
stages and the partners have not been selected yet; other projects 
continue from previous years. 

Table: 

Project: Surface Traffic Management; 
Description: Provide situational awareness information to and data 
exchange among airport stakeholders using technology such as Airport 
Surface Detection Equipment-Model X (ASDE-X) to support new decision 
support tools; 
Location: Memphis, John F. Kennedy, and Orlando airports; 
Partners: Airport authorities, FedEx, and Northwest Airlines. 

Project: Surface Conformance Monitoring; 
Description: Begin to link the movement of aircraft on the surface 
between air traffic control and future cockpit moving map displays; 
Location: TBD; 
Partners: TBD. 

Project: Arrival Management; (Continuous Descent Arrivals, Tailored 
Arrivals); 
Description: Use integrated automation tools and data communication to 
provide a cleared trajectory path, which is transferred to the aircraft 
and flown by the flight management system; 
Location: Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Charleston (SC), and 
San Francisco airports; 
Partners: NASA Ames, Boeing, Sensis, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, 
U.S. Air Force Mobility Command, Georgia Institute of Technology, MITRE 
Corporation, and foreign carriers. 

Project: Three-dimensional Path Arrival Management (3D-PAM); 
Description: Will provide, at high-density airports, a means to achieve 
accurate, predictable, and fuel-efficient routes, which are designed to 
decrease controller and pilot workload, as well as decrease adverse 
environmental impacts (emissions and noise) while potentially enhancing 
airport throughput; 
Location: Denver; 
Partners: NASA Ames, Boeing. 

Project: Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS); 
Description: Initially define and test Area Navigation/Required 
Navigation Performance (RNAV/RNP) approach routes into and out of 
Teterborough, and separate Teterborough traffic from Newark's traffic. 
Operational demonstrations will be conducted using satellite navigation 
(SATNAV) technology in a complex environment to assist in identifying 
and implementing RNAV/RNP operations for performance-based navigation; 
Location: Newark and Teterborough airports; 
Partners: NY Port Authority and Continental Airlines. 

Project: Oceanic Trajectory Based Operations; (AIRE and ASPIRE); 
Description: Demonstrate potential benefits for oceanic trajectory 
optimization in terms of fuel savings and emissions reductions; 
Location: Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (beginning in fiscal year 2010) 
operational areas; 
Partners: Boeing; CSSI, Inc.; MITRE Corporation; American Airlines; 
foreign carriers and European partners. 

Project: International Flight Data Object (IFDO); 
Description: Conduct research, development, and laboratory proof of 
concept of IFDO exchange using collaborative flight planning capability 
for oceanic and en route air traffic services; 
Location: Daytona Beach airport; 
Partners: Lockheed Martin, Computer Sciences Corporation, Boeing, 
Harris, Adacel, and Nav Portugal. 

Project: Four-Dimensional Flight Management System; 
Description: One of a series of joint demonstration projects aimed at 
promoting global air traffic control leadership and collaboration with 
research and development activities in other countries; 
Location: TBD; 
Partners: TBD. 

Project: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS); 
Description: Examine potential for widespread integration of UASs into 
the future NextGen environment; 
Location: Kennedy Space Center; 
Partners: AAI Corporation, General Atomics, and GE. 

Project: Network Enabled Operations Program; 
Description: Develop and leverage network information technology to 
provide an agile, highly connective network for net-centric shared 
situational awareness; 
Location: TBD; 
Partners: TBD. 

Project: Staffed NextGen Towers; 
Description: Provide surface and tower services without the requirement 
for direct visual observation by air traffic control personnel from an 
airport tower cab; 
Location: TBD; 
Partners: TBD. 

Project: Weather Integrated into Traffic Management Advisor and En 
Description: Route Automation Modernization; 
Research, evaluate, and demonstrate NextGen concepts, procedures, 
technologies, and capabilities. Initial demonstration to show the 
incorporation of convective weather data into the Traffic Management 
Advisor tool to better maintain airport arrival rates; 
Location: Daytona Beach airport; 
Partners: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Lockheed Martin; 
Computer Sciences Corporation; ENSCO, Inc. 

Source: GAO analysis of FAA documents. 

[End of table] 

3. Dr. Dillingham, GAO recently took the FAA's air traffic control 
modernization program off its "high risk" list. With regard to this 
distinction, please provide me with answers to the following questions: 

a. Does GAO draw a distinction between the FAA's ATC modernization 
program and the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) 
effort? If so, please explain the distinction? 

Response: Yes, GAO draws a distinction between air traffic control 
(ATC) modernization and NextGen. The ATC modernization program, which 
was placed on GAO's High-Risk List in 1995, focused primarily on the 
acquisition of ATC systems. Key projects within that modernization 
program experienced cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance 
shortfalls that affected FAA's ability to deliver systems as promised. 
GAO removed FAA's ATC modernization program from the High-Risk List in 
January 2009[Footnote 1] because of the agency's progress in addressing 
most of the root causes of its past problems and its commitment to 
sustaining progress in the future. 

NextGen is a total transformation of the air transportation system. 
NextGen represents a paradigm shift from air traffic control to air 
traffic management. It is a shift from ground-based radar control of 
aircraft to a satellite-based, aircraft-centric national airspace 
system. NextGen includes the acquisition of some new systems, but it 
also involves the integration of "legacy systems" with those new 
systems, along with the development of policies and procedures that 
will enable a safe expansion of system capacity and efficiency to meet 
projected traffic demands by 2025. For example, the implementation of 
Automatic Dependence Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology is 
designed to enable greater use of existing performance-based navigation 
techniques, which in turn would lead to a greater number of more 
efficient, more environmentally-friendly aircraft operations. 

NextGen also differs from ATC modernization in its organizational 
structure. The implementation of NextGen extends beyond FAA's ATO, 
which was almost solely responsible for ATC modernization, to other 
lines of business such as Airports, Safety, and Environment. 
Additionally, NextGen includes cooperative relations among FAA; the 
Departments of Transportation, Defense, Homeland Security, and 
Commerce; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and 
the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It also 
includes nonfederal aviation stakeholders, such as aircraft and 
avionics manufacturers, air carriers, airports, and aircraft operators. 

b. Does GAO deem NextGen to be a "high risk" effort? If not, why not? 

Response: While NextGen is a high-risk effort because of its dollar 
cost and complexity, it is not currently on GAO's High-Risk List. 
NextGen has only recently begun to move from the planning stage to 
implementation. As we noted in our 2009 High-Risk update, we plan to 
closely monitor FAA's efforts to implement NextGen as the program 
continues to mature. At the request of this Subcommittee, we will be 
monitoring NextGen's implementation and regularly updating the 
Subcommittee. Therefore, NextGen will be receiving the scrutiny that 
any high-risk program would receive and will be evaluated against 
criteria set out in our guidance document Determining Performance and 
Accountability Challenges and High Risks.[Footnote 2] 

4. GAO has previously reported that FAA briefed the industry on 
preliminary near-term costs for NextGen in April 2006 and this 
preliminary estimate provided approximately $1 billion more through 
2012 than FAA's most recent 5 year capital investment plan (CIP) for 
FAA facilities and equipment. If Congress were to provide the level of 
funding outlined in the FAA's preliminary estimate, approximately $1 
billion more through 2012 than the most recent CIP, would it help to 
accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen? 

Response: Yes, if Congress provided FAA with additional funding, that 
funding could be applied to a variety of projects and initiatives that 
would help to accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen. We 
discuss the specific research, development, and deployment that could 
be undertaken should Congress provide additional funding in my response 
to a question below. 

5. Would additional Facilities and Equipment funding help to bridge the 
so-called NASA gap? In other words, could it be used for the type of 
intermediate development and demonstration projects that NASA would no 
longer fund? 

Response: In the past, NASA conducted a significant portion of 
aeronautics research and development but the funding for those efforts 
declined when NASA's aeronautical research portfolio was restructured 
to focus more on fundamental research. Meanwhile, budget requests for 
FAA's NextGen-related research and development have increased in recent 
years to address the gap that resulted from both the previous 
administration's cuts to NASA's aeronautics research funding and the 
expanded requirements of NextGen. Nonetheless, our work has identified 
areas that would benefit from additional research and development, such 
as the environmental impact of aviation, human factors, and other areas 
that are discussed further in my response to the question below. 
Additional research and development in such areas is critical for the 
timely implementation of NextGen and could benefit from additional 
funding, should Congress decide to provide it. 

6. Would you cite additional research, development and deployment that 
could be done with funding over and above FAA's capital investment plan 
funding levels? 

Response: While we have not evaluated the full merits of providing 
additional funding, additional research, development, and deployment 
could be undertaken or accelerated in several areas with funding over 
and above the level provided in FAA's 2009 through 2013 CIP. Through 
our work, we found two closely related areas that are critical and time-
sensitive for the implementation of NextGen and could be candidates for 
increased funding--avionics development and aircraft equipage. 
Additional support in these areas could accelerate the transition to 
satellite-based navigation, which requires the commercial fleet to be 
equipped with advanced avionics. This transition would allow FAA to 
pursue the elimination of costly ground-based navigation aids; the 
transition to data link; and the standardization of future aircraft 
capabilities such as flight management systems, traffic collision 
avoidance systems, and modular avionics. 

The development and deployment of NextGen will require a series of 
incremental changes that must be demonstrated and tested to help ensure 
that they do not degrade the safety of current systems. Developing the 
evidence for regulatory bodies and for the public that these 
incremental changes are safe will be time-consuming, costly, and 
difficult. For example, additional development funding could help with 
the testing of a system in which pilots and air traffic controllers 
share in decisions about the aircraft's flight path. Such a system 
would increase the level of safety assurance for en route and terminal 
automation and support the acquisition of air-to-ground data 
communications to support trajectory negotiation. 

Our research has shown that human factors is another area that could 
benefit from additional funding. As we have previously reported, one of 
the principal changes under NextGen will be a transformation from air 
traffic control to air traffic management. This will mean new roles for 
all participants in the system, including air traffic controllers and 
pilots. Additional funding could accelerate human factors research and 
training initiatives that are central to the success of NextGen, such 
as initiatives defining the relative responsibilities of aircraft 
personnel and ground controllers, and modernizing controller training 
through the use of advanced simulation and intelligent tutoring tools. 

According to FAA officials we interviewed, research and development for 
advanced concepts and applications could also be strengthened and 
accelerated in the area of airborne applications. This research could 
include spacing and merging approaches, including optimizing the 
spacing of aircraft that are in flight, allowing for closely spaced 
parallel approaches and reduced separation standards, and addressing 
wake turbulence. Additional funding could allow for limited field 
trials to refine operational and system requirements, and work could be 
done to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace 
system. Establishing supporting processes for rulemaking and software 
certification could also accelerate the removal of potential 
bottlenecks to implementing NextGen. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure II: 

Related GAO Products: 

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Status of Systems 
Acquisition and the Transition to the Next Generation Air 
Transportation System. GAO-08-1078. Washington, D.C.: September 11, 
2008. 

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Status of Key Issues 
Associated with the Transition to NextGen. GAO-08-1154T. Washington, 
D.C.: September 11, 2008. 

Responses to Questions for the Record; Hearing on the Future of Air 
Traffic Control Modernization. GAO-07-928R. Washington, D.C.: May 30, 
2007. 

Responses to Questions for the Record; Hearing on JPDO and the Next 
Generation Air Transportation System: Status and Issues. GAO-07-918R. 
Washington, D.C.: May 29, 2007. 

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Progress and Challenges 
Associated with the Transformation of the National Airspace System. GAO-
07-25. Washington, D.C.: November 13, 2006. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-271] (Washington, D.C.: January 
2009). 

[2] GAO, Determining Performance and Accountability Challenges and High 
Risks, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-01-159SP] 
(Washington, D.C.: November 2000). 

[End of section] 

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