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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, 
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT: 

Thursday, March 22, 2007: 

Next Generation Air Transportation System: 

Progress and Challenges in Planning and Implementing the Transformation 
of the National Airspace System: 

Statement of Susan Fleming, Acting Director: 
Physical Infrastructure Issues: 

GAO-07-649T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-649T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, Committee on Commerce, 
Science and Transportation, U.S. Senate 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The skies over America are becoming more crowded every day. The 
consensus of opinion is that the current aviation system cannot be 
expanded to meet this projected growth. Recognizing the need for system 
transformation, in 2003 Congress authorized the Joint Planning and 
Development Office (JPDO) and requires the office to operate in 
conjunction with multiple federal agencies, including the Departments 
of Transportation, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security; the 
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); the National Aeronautics and 
Space Administration (NASA); and the White House Office of Science and 
Technology Policy. JPDO is responsible for coordinating the related 
efforts of these partner agencies to plan the transformation to the 
Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen): a fundamental 
redesign of the national airspace system. FAA will be largely 
responsible for implementing the policies and systems necessary for 
NextGen, while safely operating the current air traffic control system. 

GAO’s testimony focuses on (1) the progress that JPDO has made in 
planning NextGen and some challenges it continues to face and (2) the 
challenges that FAA faces transitioning to NextGen. GAO’s statement is 
based on our recent reports as well as ongoing work, all of which has 
been conducted in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. 

What GAO Found: 

JPDO has made substantial progress in planning NextGen, but continues 
to face several challenges. JPDO has established a framework to 
facilitate federal interagency collaboration and is involving 
nonfederal stakeholders in its planning efforts. JPDO has begun 
leveraging the resources of its partner agencies and is finalizing key 
planning documents such as the concept of operations and the enterprise 
architecture. The draft concept of operations has been posted to JPDO’s 
Web site for public comment and the enterprise architecture is expected 
to be completed in the next few months. JPDO and FAA have improved 
their collaboration and coordination by expanding and revamping FAA’s 
Operational Evolution Plan—renamed the Operational Evolution 
Partnership—which is intended to provide an implementation plan for FAA 
for NextGen. Among the challenges JPDO faces are institutionalizing the 
interagency collaboration that is so central to its mission, developing 
a comprehensive cost estimate, and addressing potential gaps in 
research and development for NextGen. 

In transitioning to NextGen, FAA faces several challenges. Although FAA 
has taken several actions to improve its management of current air 
traffic control modernization efforts, institutionalizing these 
improvements will require continued strong leadership, particularly 
since the agency will have lost two of its key agents for change by 
September 2007. Costs are another challenge facing FAA as it addresses 
the resource demands that NextGen will likely pose, while continuing to 
maintain the current air traffic control system. Finally, determining 
whether it has the technical and contract management expertise 
necessary to implement NextGen is a challenge for FAA. 

Figure: Seven Partner Agencies For the Joint PLanning and Development 
Office: 

[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

[Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-649T]. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Susan Fleming at (202) 
512-2834, or flemings@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on efforts to 
transform the current national airspace system to the Next Generation 
Air Transportation System (NextGen). The skies over America are 
becoming more crowded every day. Demand for air travel has increased in 
recent years, with over 740 million passengers flying in fiscal year 
2006, climbing toward an estimated 1 billion passengers per year in 
2015, according to FAA estimates. The consensus of opinion is that the 
current aviation system cannot be expanded to meet this projected 
growth. In 2003, recognizing the need for system transformation, 
Congress authorized the creation of the Joint Planning and Development 
Office (JPDO) and required the office to operate in conjunction with 
multiple federal agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, 
Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security; the Federal Aviation 
Administration (FAA); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
(NASA); and the White House Office of Science and Technology 
Policy.[Footnote 1] JPDO is responsible for coordinating the related 
efforts of these partner agencies to plan the transformation to 
NextGen: a fundamental redesign of the air transportation system that 
will entail precision satellite navigation; digital, networked 
communications; an integrated weather system; layered, adaptive 
security; and more. FAA will be largely responsible for implementing 
the policies and systems necessary for NextGen, while safely operating 
the current air traffic control system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

My testimony today addresses issues concerning both JPDO and FAA as the 
NextGen effort begins to move from conceptualization and planning to 
implementation of systems and procedures. Specifically, my testimony 
focuses on (1) the progress that JPDO has made in planning the NextGen 
system and some challenges it continues to face and (2) the challenges 
that FAA faces in transitioning to NextGen. My statement is based on 
our recent reports as well as ongoing work for this subcommittee. We 
conducted this work in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. 

In summary: 

* JPDO has made substantial progress in planning NextGen, but continues 
to face several challenges. JPDO has established a framework to 
facilitate the federal interagency collaboration that is central to its 
mission, and is involving nonfederal stakeholders in its planning 
efforts. JPDO has begun leveraging the resources of its partner 
agencies and finalizing several key documents that form the fundamental 
plan for NextGen, including a concept of operations and an enterprise 
architecture. The draft concept of operations has been posted to JPDO's 
Web site for public comment and the enterprise architecture is expected 
to be completed in the next few months. JPDO and FAA have improved 
their collaboration and coordination by developing an expanded and 
revamped Operational Evolution Plan intended to provide a NextGen 
implementation plan for FAA. JPDO has faced a continuing challenge in 
institutionalizing interagency collaboration. JPDO also faces 
challenges in developing a comprehensive cost estimate, exploring 
potential gaps in research and development for NextGen, incorporating 
the expertise of all major stakeholders, researching human factors 
issues, and establishing credibility among stakeholders. 

* FAA faces challenges in institutionalizing recent management 
improvements and controlling costs as it begins the transition to 
NextGen. By creating the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) in 2003, and 
appointing a Chief Operating Officer (COO) to head ATO, FAA established 
a new management structure and adopted more leading practices of 
private sector businesses to address the cost, schedule, and 
performance shortfalls that have plagued its air traffic control 
modernization efforts. For example, FAA has taken steps to improve its 
acquisition workforce culture and work toward a results-oriented, high- 
performance organization. However, institutionalizing these changes 
will require continued strong leadership, particularly since the agency 
will have lost two of its significant agents for change--the FAA 
Administrator and the COO--by September 2007. Additionally, the costs 
of operating and maintaining the current air traffic control system 
while implementing NextGen will be another important challenge for FAA, 
as will having the technical and contract management expertise needed 
to implement a system as complex as NextGen. 

JPDO Has Made Progress in Planning NextGen, but Faces Several 
Challenges: 

JPDO has made progress in planning NextGen by facilitating 
collaboration among its partner agencies, working to finalize key 
planning documents, and improving its collaboration and coordination 
with FAA. Among the challenges JPDO faces are institutionalizing 
collaboration among the partner agencies, and identifying and exploring 
questions related to which entity will fund and conduct the research 
and development needed to meet NextGen requirements. 

JPDO Has Made Progress in Planning NextGen by Facilitating 
Collaboration Among Partner Agencies, Working to Finalize Key Planning 
Documents, and Improving Coordination with FAA: 

JPDO has made progress in many areas in planning NextGen, as we 
reported in November 2006.[Footnote 2] I will highlight just a few of 
those areas in this testimony. First, JPDO has taken several actions 
that are consistent with practices that facilitate interagency 
collaboration--an important point given how critical such collaboration 
is to the success of JPDO's mission. For example, the JPDO partner 
agencies worked together to develop a high level plan for NextGen along 
with eight strategies that broadly address the goals and objectives for 
NextGen.[Footnote 3] JPDO has since issued two annual updates to this 
plan, as required by Congress. Also, JPDO's organizational structure 
involves federal and nonfederal stakeholders throughout. This structure 
includes a federal interagency senior policy committee, an institute 
for nonfederal stakeholders, and eight integrated product teams that 
bring together federal and nonfederal experts to plan for and 
coordinate the development of technologies that will address JPDO's 
eight broad strategies. JPDO has also begun leveraging the resources of 
its partner agencies in part by reviewing their research and 
development programs, identifying work to support NextGen, and working 
to minimize duplication of research programs across the agencies. For 
example, one opportunity for coordination involves aligning aviation 
weather research across FAA, NASA, and the Departments of Commerce and 
Defense, developing a common weather capability, and integrating 
weather information into NextGen. 

In addition to developing and updating its high-level integrated plan, 
first published in December 2004, JPDO has been working to develop 
several critical documents that form the foundation of NextGen 
planning, including a draft concept of operations and an enterprise 
architecture. The concept of operations describes how the 
transformational elements of NextGen will operate in 2025. It is 
intended to establish general stakeholder buy-in to the NextGen end 
state, a transition path, and a business case. The enterprise 
architecture follows from the concept of operations and will describe 
the system in more detail (using the federal enterprise architecture 
framework). It will be used to integrate NextGen efforts of the partner 
agencies. The draft concept of operations has been posted to JPDO's Web 
site for stakeholder review and comment. According to JPDO, an expanded 
version of the enterprise architecture is expected in mid-2007. 

Progress has also been made in improving the collaboration and 
coordination between JPDO and FAA--the agency largely responsible for 
the implementation of NextGen systems and capabilities. FAA has 
expanded and revamped its Operational Evolution Plan (OEP)--renamed the 
Operational Evolution Partnership--to become FAA's implementation plan 
for NextGen.[Footnote 4] The OEP is being expanded to apply to all of 
FAA and is intended to become a comprehensive description of how the 
agency will implement NextGen, including the required technologies, 
procedures, and resources. An ATO official told us that the new OEP is 
to be consistent with JPDO's key planning documents and partner agency 
budget guidance. According to FAA, the new OEP will allow it to 
demonstrate appropriate budget control and linkage to NextGen plans and 
will force FAA's research and development to be relevant to NextGen's 
requirements. According to FAA documents, the agency plans to publish 
the new OEP in June 2007. 

In an effort to further align FAA's efforts with JPDO's plans for 
NextGen, FAA has created a NextGen Review Board to oversee the OEP. 
This Review Board will be co-chaired by JPDO's Director and ATO's Vice 
President of Operations Planning. Initiatives, such as concept 
demonstrations or research, proposed for inclusion in the OEP, will now 
need to go through the Review Board for approval. Initiatives are to be 
assessed for relation to NextGen requirements, concept maturity, and 
risk. An ATO official told us that the new OEP process should also help 
identify some smaller programs that might be inconsistent with NextGen 
and which could be discontinued. Additionally, as a further step 
towards integrating ATO and JPDO, the administration's reauthorization 
proposal calls for the JPDO Director to be a voting member of FAA's 
Joint Resources Council and ATO's Executive Council. 

Challenges for JPDO Include Institutionalizing Interagency 
Collaboration and Exploring Potential Gaps in Research and Development 
Needs for NextGen: 

Although JPDO has established a framework for collaboration, it has 
faced a challenge in institutionalizing this framework. As JPDO is a 
coordinating body, it has no authority over its partner agencies' key 
human and technological resources needed to continue developing plans 
and system requirements for NextGen. For example, JPDO has been working 
to establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its partner 
agencies to more clearly define partner agencies' roles and 
responsibilities since at least August 2005. As of March 16, 2007, 
however, the MOU remained unsigned. Another key activity for 
strengthening the collaborative effort will be synchronizing the 
NextGen enterprise architecture with the partner agencies' enterprise 
architectures. These types of efforts, which would better 
institutionalize JPDO's collaborative framework throughout the partner 
agencies, will be critical to JPDO's ability to leverage the necessary 
funding for developing NextGen. Institutionalization would help ensure 
that, as administrations and staffing within JPDO change over the 
years, those coming into JPDO will have a clear understanding of their 
roles and responsibilities and of the time and resource commitments 
entailed. 

JPDO faces a challenge in developing a comprehensive cost estimate for 
the NextGen effort. In its recent 2006 Progress Report,[Footnote 5] 
JPDO reported some cost estimates related to FAA's NextGen investment 
portfolio, which I will discuss in more detail later in this statement. 
However, JPDO is still working to develop an understanding of the 
future requirements of its other partner agencies and the users of the 
system. JPDO stated that it sees its work in estimating costs as an 
ongoing process. The office notes that it will gain additional insight 
into the business, management, and technical issues and alternatives 
that will go into the long-term process of implementing NextGen as it 
continues to work with industry, and that it expects its cost estimates 
to continue to evolve. 

Another challenge facing JPDO is exploring potential gaps in the 
research and development necessary to achieve some key NextGen 
capabilities and to keep the development of new systems on schedule. In 
the past, a significant portion of aeronautics research and 
development, including intermediate technology development, has been 
performed by NASA. However, our analysis of NASA's aeronautics research 
budget and proposed funding shows a 30 percent decline, in constant 
2005 dollars, from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2011. To its credit, 
NASA plans to focus its research on the needs of NextGen. However, NASA 
is also moving toward a focus on fundamental research and away from 
developmental work and demonstration projects. FAA is currently 
assessing its capacity to address these issues. Currently it is unknown 
how all of the significant research and development activities inherent 
in the transition to NextGen will be conducted or funded. 

Still another challenge facing JPDO is ensuring that all relevant 
stakeholders are involved in the effort. Some stakeholders, such as 
current air traffic controllers and technicians, will play critical 
roles in NextGen, and their involvement in planning for and deploying 
the new technology will be important to the success of NextGen. In 
November 2006, we reported that air traffic controllers were not 
involved in the NextGen planning effort.[Footnote 6] Controllers are 
beginning to become involved as the controllers' union is now 
represented on a key planning body. However, technicians are currently 
not participating in NextGen efforts. Input from current air traffic 
controllers who have recent experience controlling aircraft and current 
technicians who will maintain the new equipment is important is 
considering human factors and safety issues. Our work on past air 
traffic control modernization projects has shown that a lack of 
stakeholder or expert involvement early and throughout a project can 
lead to cost increases and delays. 

Addressing human factors issues is another key challenge for JPDO. For 
example, the NextGen concept of operations envisions that pilots will 
take on a greater share of the responsibility for maintaining safe 
separation and other tasks currently performed by controllers--raising 
human factors questions about whether pilots can safely perform these 
additional duties. According to JPDO, the change in the roles of 
controllers and pilots is the most important human factors issue 
involved in creating NextGen but will be difficult to research because 
data on pilot behavior are not readily available for use in creating 
models. 

Finally, we reported in November 2006 that establishing credibility was 
viewed by the majority of the expert panelists we consulted as a 
challenge facing JPDO. This view partially stems from past experiences 
in which the government has stopped some modernization efforts after 
industry invested in supporting technologies. Stakeholders' belief that 
the government is fully committed to NextGen will be important as 
efforts to implement NextGen technologies move forward. Another 
credibility challenge for JPDO is convincing stakeholders that the 
collaborative effort is making progress toward facilitating 
implementation. To address this challenge, the new Director of JPDO is 
planning to implement some structural and procedural changes to the 
office. For example, the Director has proposed changing JPDO's 
integrated product teams into "working groups" that would task small 
teams with exploring specific issues and delivering discrete work 
products. These changes have not yet been implemented at JPDO and it 
will take some time before the effectiveness of these changes can be 
evaluated. 

FAA Faces Challenges in Transitioning to NextGen: 

FAA is a principal player in JPDO's efforts and will be the chief 
implementer of NextGen. Successful implementation will depend, in part, 
on how well FAA addresses its challenges of institutionalizing its 
recent improvement in managing air traffic control modernization 
efforts, addressing the cost challenges of implementing NextGen while 
safely maintaining the current air traffic control system, and 
obtaining the expertise needed to implement a system as complex as 
NextGen. I turn now to these challenges. 

FAA Faces the Challenge of Institutionalizing Recent Progress in 
Managing Air Traffic Control Modernization Efforts: 

A successful transition to NextGen will depend, to a great extent, on 
FAA's ability to manage the acquisition and integration of multiple 
NextGen systems. Since 1995, we have designated FAA's air traffic 
control modernization program as high risk because of systemic 
management and acquisition problems. In recent years, FAA has taken a 
number of actions to improve its management of acquisitions. 
Realization of NextGen goals could be severely compromised if FAA's 
improved processes are not institutionalized and carried over into the 
implementation of NextGen, which is an even more complex and ambitious 
undertaking than past modernization efforts. 

To its credit, FAA has taken a number of actions to improve its 
acquisition management. By creating the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) 
in 2003, and appointing a Chief Operating Officer (COO) to head ATO, 
FAA established a new management structure and adopted more leading 
practices of private sector businesses to address the cost, schedule, 
and performance shortfalls that have plagued air traffic control 
acquisitions. ATO has worked to create a flatter organization, with 
fewer management layers, and has reported reducing executive staffing 
by 20 percent and total management by 16 percent. In addition, FAA uses 
a performance management system to hold managers responsible for the 
success of ATO. More specifically, to better manage its acquisitions 
and address problems we have identified,[Footnote 7] FAA has: 

* established strategic goals to improve its acquisition workforce 
culture and build towards a results-oriented, high-performing 
organization; 

* developed and applied a process improvement model to assess the 
maturity of its software and systems acquisitions capabilities 
resulting in, among other things, enhanced productivity and greater 
ability to predict schedules and resources; and: 

* reported that it has established a policy and guidance on using 
Earned Value Management (EVM) in its acquisition management system and 
that 19 of its major programs are currently using EVM.[Footnote 8] 

Institutionalizing these improvements throughout the agency (i.e., 
providing for their duration beyond the current leadership by ensuring 
that reforms are fully integrated into the agency's structure and 
processes and have become part of its organizational culture) will 
continue to be a challenge for FAA. For example, the agency has yet to 
implement its cost estimating methodology, although, according to the 
agency, it has provided training on the methodology to employees. 
Furthermore, FAA has not established a policy to require use of its 
process improvement model on all major acquisitions for the national 
airspace system. Until the agency fully addresses these legacy issues, 
it will continue to risk program management problems affecting cost, 
schedule, and performance. With a multi-billion dollar acquisition 
budget, addressing these issues is as important as ever. 

Institutionalizing Change within FAA Will Require Continued Strong 
Leadership: 

While FAA has implemented many positive changes to its management 
processes, it currently faces the loss of key leaders. We have reported 
that the experiences of successful transformations and change 
management initiatives in large public and private organizations 
suggest that it can take 5 to 7 years or more until such initiatives 
are fully implemented and cultures are transformed in a sustainable 
manner. Such changes require focused, full-time attention from senior 
leadership and a dedicated team.[Footnote 9] FAA's management 
improvements are relatively recent developments, and the agency will 
have lost two of its significant agents for change--the Administrator 
and the COO--by the end of September. The administrator's term ends in 
September 2007; the COO left in February 2007, after serving 3 years. 
This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the current Director of 
JPDO is also new, having assumed that position in August 2006. For the 
management and acquisition improvements to further permeate the agency, 
and thus provide a firm foundation upon which to implement NextGen, 
FAA's new leaders will need to demonstrate the same commitment to 
improvement as the outgoing leaders. This continued commitment to 
change is critical over the next few years, as foundational NextGen 
systems begin to be implemented. Expeditiously moving to find a new COO 
will help sustain this momentum. 

FAA Faces a Cost Challenge of Implementing NextGen while Sustaining the 
Current Air Traffic Control System: 

JPDO recently reported some estimated costs for NextGen, including 
specifics on some early NextGen programs.[Footnote 10] JPDO believes 
the total federal cost for NextGen infrastructure through 2025 will 
range between $15 billion and $22 billion. JPDO also reported that a 
preliminary estimate of the corresponding cost to system users, who 
will have to equip with the advanced avionics that are necessary to 
realize the full benefits of some NextGen technologies, ranges between 
$14 and $20 billion. JPDO noted that this range for avionics costs 
reflects uncertainty about equipage costs for individual aircraft, the 
number of very light jets that will operate in high-performance 
airspace, and the amount of out-of-service time required for 
installation. 

In its Capital Investment Plan for fiscal years 2008-2012, FAA includes 
estimated expenditures for eleven line items that are considered 
NextGen capital programs.[Footnote 11] The total 5-year estimated 
expenditures for these programs are $4.3 billion. In fiscal year 2008, 
only six of the line items are funded for a total of roughly $174 
million; funding for the remaining five programs would begin with the 
fiscal year 2009 budget. According to FAA, in addition to capital 
spending for NextGen, the agency will also spend an estimated $300 
million on NextGen-related research and development from fiscal years 
2008 through 2012. Also, the administration's budget for fiscal year 
2008 for FAA includes $17.8 million to support the activities of JPDO. 

It is important to note that while FAA must manage the costs associated 
with the NextGen transformation, it must simultaneously continue to 
fund and operate the current national airspace system. In fact, the 
Department of Transportation's Inspector General has reported that the 
majority of FAA's capital funds go toward the sustainment of current 
air traffic systems and that, over the last several years, increasing 
operating costs have crowded out funds for the capital account. Efforts 
to sustain the current system are particularly important given the 
safety concerns that could be involved with system outages--the number 
of which has increased steadily over the last few years as the system 
continues to age. 

For example, the adequacy of FAA's maintenance of existing systems was 
raised following a power outage and equipment failures in Southern 
California that caused hundreds of flight delays during the summer of 
2006. Investigations by the DOT Inspector General into these incidents 
identified a number of underlying issues, including the age and 
condition of equipment. Nationwide, the number of scheduled and 
unscheduled outages of air traffic control equipment and ancillary 
support systems has been increasing (see fig. 1). According to FAA, 
increases in the number of unscheduled outages indicate that systems 
are failing more frequently. FAA also notes that the duration of 
unscheduled equipment outages has also been increasing in recent years 
from an average of about 21 hours in 2001 to about 40 hours in 2006, 
which may indicate, in part, that maintenance and troubleshooting 
activities are requiring more effort and longer periods of time. 
However, the agency considers user impact and resource efficiency when 
planning and responding to equipment outages, according to an FAA 
official. As a result, although some outages will have longer 
restoration times, FAA believes that they do not adversely affect air 
traffic control operations. It will be important for FAA to monitor and 
address equipment outages to ensure the safety and efficiency of the 
legacy systems and a smooth transition to NextGen. 

Figure 1: Number of Scheduled and Unscheduled Equipment Outages, 
Calendar Years 2001-2006: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of FAA's NASPAS data. 

[End of figure] 

As part of managing the costs of system sustainment and system 
modernization, FAA is seeking ways to reduce costs by introducing 
infrastructure and operational efficiencies. For example, FAA plans to 
produce cost savings through outsourcing and facility consolidations. 
FAA is outsourcing flight service stations and estimates a $2.2 billion 
savings over 12 years. Similarly, FAA is seeking savings through 
outsourcing its planned nationwide deployment of Automatic Dependent 
Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a critical surveillance technology for 
NextGen. FAA is planning to implement ADS-B through a performance-based 
contract in which FAA will pay "subscription" charges for the ADS-B 
services and the vendor will be responsible for building and 
maintaining the infrastructure. (FAA also reports that the ADS-B 
rollout will allow the agency to remove 50 percent of its current 
secondary radars, saving money in the ADS-B program's baseline.) As for 
consolidating facilities, FAA is currently restructuring its 
administrative service areas from nine offices to three offices, which 
FAA estimates will save up to $460 million over 10 years. 

We have previously reported that FAA should pursue further cost control 
options, such as exploring additional opportunities for contracting out 
services and consolidating facilities. However, we recognize that FAA 
faces challenges with consolidating facilities, an action that can be 
politically sensitive. In recognition of this sensitivity, the 
administration has proposed in FAA's reauthorization proposal that the 
Secretary of Transportation be authorized to establish an independent, 
five-member Commission, known as the Realignment and Consolidation of 
Aviation Facilities and Services Commission, to independently analyze 
FAA's recommendations to realign facilities or services. The Commission 
would then send its own recommendations to the President and to 
Congress. In the past, we have noted the importance of potential cost 
savings through facility consolidations; however, it must also be noted 
that any such consolidations must be handled through a process that 
solicits and considers stakeholder input throughout, and fully 
considers the safety implications of any proposed facility closures or 
consolidations. 

FAA Needs to Explore Whether It Has the Technical and Contract 
Management Expertise Necessary to Implement NextGen: 

In the past, a lack of expertise contributed to weaknesses in FAA's 
management of air traffic control modernization efforts, and industry 
experts with whom we spoke questioned whether FAA will have the 
technical expertise needed to implement NextGen. In addition to 
technical expertise, FAA will need contract management expertise to 
oversee the systems acquisitions and integration involved in NextGen. 
In November, we recommended that FAA examine its strengths and 
weaknesses with regard to the technical expertise and contract 
management expertise that will be required to define, implement, and 
integrate the numerous complex programs inherent in the transition to 
NextGen.[Footnote 12] In response to our recommendation, FAA is 
considering convening a blue ribbon panel to study the issue and make 
recommendations to the agency about how to best proceed with its 
management and oversight of the implementation of NextGen. We believe 
that such a panel could help FAA begin to address this challenge. 

To conclude, transforming the national airspace system to accommodate 
much greater demand for air transportation services in the years ahead 
will be an enormously complex undertaking. JPDO has made strides in 
meeting its planning and coordination role as set forth by Congress, 
and FAA has taken several steps in recent years that better position it 
to successfully implement NextGen. If JPDO and FAA can build on their 
recent achievements and overcome the many challenges they face, the 
transition to NextGen stands a much better chance for success. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I am pleased to answer any 
questions you or members of the Subcommittee might have. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgements: 

For further information on this testimony, please contact Susan Fleming 
at (202) 512-2834 or flemings@gao.gov. Individuals making key 
contributions to this testimony include Gerald Dillingham, Matthew 
Cook, Anne Dilger, Sharon Dyer, Colin Fallon, Heather Krause, Edmond 
Menoche, Faye Morrison, and Carrie Wilks. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Pub. L. No. 108-176, Vision 100--Century of Aviation 
Reauthorization Act, December 12, 2003. 

[2] GAO, Next Generation Air Transportation System: Progress and 
Challenges Associated with the Transformation of the National Airspace 
System, GAO-07-25 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 13, 2006). 

[3] The eight strategies are: (1) Develop airport infrastructure to 
meet future demand; (2) establish an effective security system without 
limiting mobility or civil liberties; (3) establish an agile air 
traffic system that quickly responds to shifts in demand; (4) establish 
shared situational awareness--where all users share the same 
information; (5) establish a comprehensive and proactive approach to 
safety; (6) develop environmental protection that allows sustained 
aviation growth; (7) develop a systemwide capability to reduce weather 
impacts; and (8) harmonize equipage and operations globally. 

[4] Prior to expansion of the OEP, the document centered around plans 
for increasing capacity and efficiency at 35 major airports. 

[5] JPDO, Making the NextGen Vision a Reality: 2006 Progress Report to 
the Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan, 
(Washington, D.C; March 2007). 

[6] GAO-07-25. 

[7] GAO, Federal Aviation Administration: Stronger Architecture Program 
Needed to Guide Systems Modernization Efforts, GAO-05-266 (Washington, 
D.C.: Apr. 29, 2005); Air Traffic Control: System Management 
Capabilities Improved, but More can be Done to Institutionalize 
Improvements, GAO-04-901 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 2004); and 
Information Technology: FAA Has Many Investment Management Capabilities 
in Place, but More Oversight of Operational Systems is Needed, GAO-04-
822 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 2004). 

[8] EVM is a project management technique that combines measurements of 
technical performance, schedule performance, and cost performance with 
the intent of providing an early warning of problems while there is 
time for corrective action. 

[9] GAO, National Airspace System: Transformation will Require Cultural 
Change, Balanced Funding Priorities, and Use of All Available 
Management Tools, GAO-06-154 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 14, 2005). 

[10] JPDO, Making the NextGen Vision a Reality: 2006 Progress Report to 
the Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan, 
(Washington, D.C.: March 2007) 

[11] FAA has six capital investment programs that it considers 
transformational NextGen programs slated to receive funding in fiscal 
year 2008: ADS-B nationwide implementation, System Wide Information 
Management (SWIM), NextGen Data Communications, NextGen Network Enabled 
Weather, National Airspace System Voice Switch, and NextGen Technology 
Demonstration. In addition, five other programs are slated to begin 
funding in 2009: NextGen System Development, NextGen High Altitude 
Trajectory Based Operations, NextGen High Density Airports, NextGen 
Networked Facilities, and NextGen Cross-Cutting Infrastructure. 

[12] GAO-07-25. 

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