Air Traffic Control:

Timely Completion of FAA's Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System Software Is at Risk

AIMD-98-41R: Published: Jan 23, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) software, focusing on: (1) the composition, status, and quality of STARS software; and (2) potential risks to timely, successful completion of STARS software.

GAO noted that: (1) STARS is a complex, costly, and software-intensive system that is to replace aging terminal display and processing systems at 171 FAA facilities nationwide; (2) FAA plans to implement STARS in two phases--the Initial System Configuration and the Final System Configuration--between December 1998 and June 2005 at a total development and deployment cost of about $1 billion; (3) there are three primary components of the STARS software: (a) full service (software enabling air traffic control functions); (b) emergency service (software providing backup should the primary system fail); and (c) transition (software for moving from the current environment to STARS); (4) the three components are being developed in a total of four builds; (5) the first build has been developed, while the remaining three are being developed; (6) FAA estimates that STARS software development will cost about $25 million; (7) for a number of reasons, FAA is behind schedule in developing STARS' full service software component; (8) software milestones were originally determined by working backwards from a predetermined date for implementing the initial configuration that was based on when the existing system would no longer be reliable, rather than being estimated as a function of the software development effort; (9) the new/modified full service component is now estimated to be 50 percent larger than the original estimate; (10) Raytheon Electronic Systems was slow in staffing the project; (11) Raytheon introduced a new software development tool that caused delays while staff learned to use this tool; (12) actual productivity rates were lower than projected; (13) Raytheon took longer than expected to specify the software requirements for builds 2 and 3 of the full service component; (14) in an effort to monitor software quality, Raytheon conducted quality assurance audits of software processes and has since resolved all findings resulting from these audits; (15) the development of STARS software entails several risks that are likely to cause further delays; (16) scheduled completion dates for builds 3 and 4 do not reflect previous delays and problems; (17) software requirements have increased since the software development schedule was set; (18) FAA's decision to develop builds 2 and 3 in parallel increases the risks that problems will take longer to correct; (19) in an attempt to remain on schedule, FAA has eliminated some testing requirements; (20) actual software productivity is below even revised goals; and (21) FAA and Raytheon have acknowledged the risks and have risk mitigation efforts under way.

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