Information Technology:

FAA Has Many Investment Management Capabilities in Place, but More Oversight of Operational Systems Is Needed

GAO-04-822: Published: Aug 20, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 2004.

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The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) mission is to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic in the United States airspace system, commonly referred to as the National Airspace System (NAS). To maintain its ability to effectively carry out this mission FAA embarked, in 1981,on a multi-billion dollar effort to modernize its aging air traffic control (ATC) system, the principle technology component of the NAS. Yet the NAS modernization has continued to be plagued by cost increases, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls. To gain insight into how FAA is meeting its management challenges, congressional requesters asked GAO to evaluate FAA's processes for making IT investment management decisions. The objectives of this review included (1) evaluating FAA's capabilities for managing its IT investments and (2) determining what plans, if any, the agency might have for improving these capabilities.

Judged against the criteria of GAO's framework for information technology investment management (ITIM), which measures the maturity of an organization's investment management processes, FAA has established about 80 percent of the basic selection and control practices that it needs to manage its mission-critical investments. For example, business lines actively monitor projects throughout their life cycles. However, the agency's senior IT investment board does not regularly review investments that are in the "in-service management," or operational, phase of their life cycles, and this creates a weakness in FAA's ability to oversee more than $1 billion of its IT investments. In addition, the agency has not yet established the key practices that would allow it to manage all of its investments as one portfolio--an integrated set of competing options. Until FAA has established the practices that would enable it to effectively manage its annual IT budget of about $2.5 billion, agency executives lack assurance that they are selecting and managing the mix of investments that best meets the agency's needs and priorities. The agency has initiated efforts to improve its investment management processes, but it has not yet developed and implemented a comprehensive plan--supported by management--to guide all of its improvement efforts. Such a plan is crucial in helping FAA to coordinate and prioritize its improvement efforts and sustain its commitment to the efforts it already has under way. Without such a plan--and controls for implementing it--FAA will be unlikely to develop a mature investment management capability.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2006, FAA defined a policy for carrying out post-implementation reviews (PIR) for investments as they enter the in-service management stage. This policy addresses who conducts and participates in the PIR, what information is presented, when it is appropriate to conduct an assessment, and how conclusions, lessons learned, and recommended management action steps are to be disseminated to executives and others. In July 2007, FAA provided an agency-level PIR plan for fiscal years 2007 to 2009 that identified investment programs requiring post-implementation reviews during that period, and outlined an integrated PIR schedule. In September 2008, FAA provided a final copy of their fiscal year 2007 post implementation review which was conducted in accordance with the policy. In addition, FAA provided a 2008 PIR plan, and reported that their fiscal 2008 PIR report was being finalized.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation shoould direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, define and implement processes for carrying out postimplementation reviews on investments as they enter the in-service management stage.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2007, FAA provided GAO with a plan that identified specific actions, deliverables, and target completion dates for getting FAA off GAO's high risk list. The action plan includes activities to develop the capabilities to manage investments as a portfolio (i.e., practices associated with stage 3 activities of the GAO IT investment management framework). FAA also established a verification review team to ensure that their defined process is in compliance with GAO's IT Investment Management framework and the associated products meet the intent of the process and framework. In September 2008, FAA reported that it expected to finish implementing stage 3 activities by February 2009.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, define and implement processes for managing major investments as part of an enterprise-level portfolio, including NAS facilities and equipments investments, NAS investments in the in-service management phase, and non-NAS investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2006, the acquisition management system (AMS) guidance was updated to reflect that the Joint Resources council (JRC) may assign review responsibilities for certain elements of the enterprise architecture to subordinate boards, including the Information Technology Executive Board (ITEB). In January 2008, FAA issued its ITEB non-NAS Investment Management Guide, specifying the ITEB's responsibility for managing non-NAS investments and defining how these investments are to be managed. FAA provided briefing documents and board minutes to show that the ITEB guide was being implemented.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, define and implement an IT investment management structure, including an investment management board and a disciplined process for managing all non-NAS investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 2006, FAA revised its acquisition review process to direct the JRC to conduct semi-annual service-level reviews to evaluate performance against quantified measures and goals for approved investment programs throughout their life cycle. According to the AMS guide, progress is to be reported against performance targets in the Exhibit 300 program baseline of each investment program within the portfolio, as well as on action plans undertaken to correct deviations from cost, schedule, performance, and benefit baseline objectives. When cost, schedule, performance, or benefits are projected to breach an approved Exhibit 300 program baseline by more than 10 percent, service organizations develop a baseline change request or recommend other action such as removal from service or new investment to correct operational or service shortfalls. These change requests or recommendations are presented to the JRC for approval. A corrective action plan specifying actions to be taken to address a variance and ensure it will not recur must accompany the baseline change request.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, establish a process for the JRC to regularly review the performance of IT systems throughout their life cycles and take corrective actions when expected performance is not being met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA developed a change to its Acquisition Management System (AMS) process that requires a service level review by the investment review board of both new and existing (operating in the in-service management phase) NAS Information Technology (IT) and non-NAS systems. According to the AMS guide, the Joint Resources Council (JRC) is to conduct service level reviews semi-annually and use the information from service level reviews to make management decisions to ensure the agency will meet established goals and metrics and share future goals. In July 2008, FAA updated its AMS and Service Level Review (SLR) guidance to require the service reviews to include an evaluation of projects' alignment with strategic goals and objectives. Also, the SLR briefing template was modified to address whether assets continue to support strategic goals.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, establish a process for the Joint Resources Council (JRC) to periodically reevaluate the alignment of projects in the in-service management phase with strategic goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Joint Resources Council (JRC) guidance and Acquisition Management System guidance have been revised to define high-level procedures for aligning the JRC and other subordinate boards, including the Information Technology Executive Board (ITEB). Specifically, according to the guidance, the ITEB (1) reviews and recommends investment opportunities for certain elements of the Enterprise Architecture (e.g. administrative systems, some mission support systems, certain National Air System systems) to the JRC for approval; (2) makes investment decisions for IT investments assigned by the JRC; and provides information on the entire IT portfolio in support of service level reviews, which are conducted by the JRC. The ITEB charter also defines roles and responsibilities for the ITEB that are aligned with those of the JRC guidance.

    Recommendation: To strengthen FAA's investment management capability and address the weaknesses discussed in this report, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop and implement a plan for improving FAA's IT investment management processes. The plan should address the weaknesses described in this report, beginning with those we identified in our Stage 2 analysis and continuing with those we identified in our Stage 3. The plan should also draw together ongoing efforts as well as instituting new initiatives where called for. The plan should, at a minimum, define procedures for aligning the JRC and the newly established Information Technology Executive Board.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 2005, FAA developed a process improvement plan that specifics measurable goals, objectives, and milestones, specifies the needed resources, and assigns clear responsibility and accountability for accomplishing tasks. In addition, FAA provided copies of quarterly progress reports on the implementation of this plan that were submitted to DOT, OMB and GAO. FAA officials stated that activities and accomplishments associated with this 2 year plan are reported on a quarterly basis. Also, in July 2007, FAA provided GAO with an action plan that identified its specific actions, deliverables, and target completion dates for addressing activities to get FAA off GAO's high risk list.

    Recommendation: In developing the plan, the FAA Administrator should ensure that it (1) specifies measurable goals, objectives, and milestones; (2) specifies needed resources; (3) assigns clear responsibility and accountability for accomplishing tasks; and (4) is approved by senior management. In implementing the plan, the FAA Administrator should ensure that the needed resources are provided to carry out the plan and that progress is measured and reported periodically to the Secretary of Transportation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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