Examination of the Federal Aviation Administration's Plan for the National Airspace System--Interim Report

AFMD-82-66: Published: Apr 20, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1982.

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GAO was asked to review the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) planning, management, and acquisition of automated systems for air traffic control and management purposes, and the plan for upgrading the current computer and communications systems for air traffic control and making extensive improvements to the National Airspace System (NAS).

The stated aims of the NAS plan are: (1) consolidation of facilities; (2) standardization of computer hardware and software; and (3) greater reliance on automation for improved safety, fuel efficiency, and productivity. To determine if the plan's objectives are reasonable, they should be quantified, linked to implementing systems and actions, and compared with their associated cost. The plan needs more detail to support: increased future demands, improved safety and services, reduction of operating costs, and replacement of facilities and equipment. It should also include cost information on individual programs, projects, or systems as well as information on the plan's benefits and savings. A major issue is whether FAA will comply with Public Law 89-306 in procuring computers for the air traffic control (ATC) system. Although GAO has recommended that FAA comply with the law and with General Services Administration implementing procedures for computer procurements, in a testimony before a congressional committee, an FAA official said that the agency does not intend to do so. Serious omissions have been made in planning the procurement of computer systems and, as a result, FAA is procuring new computers that may not be needed. FAA has experienced many problems in developing less complex ATC automation and related projects. The successful implementation of the NAS plan depends on many factors, including the support of all parties involved. To have lasting use, the plan must be revised annually.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct FAA to conduct a comprehensive information requirements analysis including the identification and ranking by priority of future software applications

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct FAA to prepare a long-range plan to obtain needed processing and telecommunication capability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In November 1982, FAA acquired a computer for its aeronautical center in Oklahoma City. FAA then acquired computers for its regional offices. In both instances, FAA stated that it followed an effective and correct management process in acquiring these computers. FAA also stated that its information needs and ADP workload justified these acquisitions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct FAA to cancel its procurements for replacing the regional computer systems and the computer for the Aeronautical Center.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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