Air Traffic Control:

Better Guidance Needed for Deciding Where to Locate Facilities and Equipment

RCED-95-14: Published: Dec 1, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) process for selecting locations for its three terminal area projects, focusing on how FAA: (1) prioritizes locations; (2) analyzes the costs and benefits of its decisions; (3) documents its location decisions; and (4) could improve its decisionmaking process.

GAO found that: (1) FAA has funded the three projects in accordance with its own guidance and has fairly distributed facilities and equipment among its nine regional offices on a priority basis; (2) although FAA bases its project funding decisions on the availability of regional staff to implement the projects, it generally does not rank locations nationally or numerically, use cost-benefit analyses to rank eligible locations, or document the factors used to prioritize certain locations; (3) FAA believes that its approach for locating facilities and distributing equipment ensures that its limited resources are targeted to high-priority needs; (4) FAA believes that ranking each location on a national basis would be cost-prohibitive, create tensions among regional offices, favor large airports, and exclude safety factors that outweigh economic considerations; (5) current FAA guidance does not include provisions that specify how prospective locations will be evaluated; (6) FAA needs to develop a more analytically based decisionmaking process for ranking eligible locations; and (7) improved selection guidance could help FAA better ensure that it is making the best use of available resources in allocating facilities and equipment to high-priority locations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, FAA revised its guidance for the FY 1998 Call for Budget Estimates. FAA's revised guidance is included in FAA Order 2500.55B, dated January 24, 1996.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to revise current guidance--the Call for Estimates, and the agency's acquisition policy--as necessary to ensure that program sponsors use consistent approaches.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency concurred with the recommendation. Amended guidance was issued by FAA's Budget Office in May 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to revise current guidance--the Call for Estimates, and the agency's acquisition policy--as necessary to ensure that program sponsors document what factors they used in location-selection decisions, including benefit-cost analyses when warranted by the project's cost. This would allow FAA to rank eligible locations from a national perspective and help ensure that scarce facilities and equipment resources are targeted to the highest-priority needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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