National Airspace System:

Status of FAA's Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System

GAO-02-1071: Published: Sep 17, 2002. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2002.

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Gerald Dillingham, Ph.D.
(202) 512-4803
contact@gao.gov

 

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Since September 1996, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been developing the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) project to replace the outdated computer equipment that air traffic controllers currently use in some facilities to control air traffic within 5 to 50 nautical miles of an airport. Comparing the currently projected cost and deployment schedule for STARS with the original cost and schedule is difficult because the program presently bears little resemblance to the program envisioned in 1996. FAA has officially changed the cost, schedule, and requirements for STARS twice. In October 1999, FAA estimated the cost for its new approach at $1.4 billion, with a schedule to begin deploying STARS in 2002 at 188 facilities and complete installation at all facilities by 2008. The second change occurred in March 2002, when FAA lowered its estimate from $1.4 billion to $1.33 billion, reduced the number of facilities receiving STARS from 188 to 74, and changed the date to complete installation at all facilities from 2008 to 2005. FAA responded to the Department of Transportation Inspector General's concerns about the agency's plans for deploying STARS in Philadelphia by stating that it plans to follow its policy for testing STARS and addressing critical software problems. Because the FAA changed the date for deploying STARS at the first facility from 1998 to 2002, it had to implement interim systems to allow it to continue to meet demands for air traffic services. Specifically, it had to replace radar displays and other hardware that were difficult to maintain and had limited capacity to accommodate software that would allow FAA to add new features. FAA documents show the cost to implement these interim solutions when STARS was delayed was $90.5 million.

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