Computer Operations:

FAA Needs to Implement an Effective Capacity Management Program

IMTEC-92-2: Published: Nov 27, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) reviewed the effectiveness of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) approach to computer capacity management; and (2) identified how FAA could improve its practices to alleviate problems with existing systems.

GAO found that: (1) FAA computer capacity management is critical to the safe and efficient use of the nation's airspace; (2) the two key components of capacity management are performance management, which is dedicated to measuring and evaluating current utilization of computer resources, and capacity planning, which involves determining what additional capacity is needed to support future missions and ensuring that it is available when needed; (3) federal regulations and related guidance require agencies to conduct capacity management activities; (4) private-sector organizations consider capacity management activities to be high-priority company programs and critical to their business success; (5) although FAA has improved its capacity management practices in some areas, for many systems performance objectives are not current, measurement of system performance is inconsistent, and the analysis and reporting of these data are limited; (6) FAA also has not projected future work loads, proposed additional resources, or prepared capacity plans for many systems; (7) as a result, FAA does not know how well its systems are performing, when it can anticipate capacity and performance-related problems, or how it will address those problems; (8) FAA has failed to implement effective performance management and capacity planning activities because it has not recognized the importance of capacity management as a priority activity; and (9) FAA lacks adequate computer capacity management policies, procedures, expertise, and tools.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: For current air traffic control systems, the Department of Transportation (DOT) disagreed and stated that FAA had adequate policies and procedures. For the future Advanced Automation System, DOT agreed and stated that FAA was addressing capacity management concerns. DOT did not believe that additional efforts for the Common System were required.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should develop computer capacity management policies and procedures for air traffic control systems and the Common System. Those policies and procedures should require implementation of capacity management programs for each system, which include establishing performance objectives, measuring performance and resource utilization, analyzing and reporting capacity management data, projecting future work loads, proposing resources to meet future demands, and preparing capacity plans. In doing this, the Administrator, FAA, should place highest priority on implementing capacity management programs for systems that are most critical to aviation safety.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT agreed with the recommendation and FAA is acting to implement it. For example, FAA has identified necessary training courses for staff to provide the skills necessary for performance management and capacity planning.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should develop or obtain the capacity management expertise necessary to produce policies and procedures and administer capacity management programs. Those personnel should be skilled in performance management and capacity planning techniques, familiar with tools available to collect, analyze, and report data, and knowledgeable about the daily operations of the systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT generally concurred in the recommendation and FAA is acting to implement it. For example, a contract was awarded to provide an automated data collection tool for the existing air traffic control systems at larger facilities that should effectively analyze, measure, and report system utilization.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should develop or acquire automated performance management and capacity planning tools for each system and consistently use them to assist in the uniform collection, analysis, and reporting of performance, utilization, and capacity data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

 

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