Effects of Delays in FAA's NAS Plan

T-RCED-87-23: Published: May 8, 1987. Publicly Released: May 8, 1987.

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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) 1988 budget request to procure the required technologies for the National Airspace System (NAS) plan, focusing on the status of four of its major systems. GAO noted that: (1) all of the systems have experienced schedule delays ranging from 1 year to 8 years because FAA underestimated their complexity, the time required for systems software development, and the system's interdependency; (2) recent changes to the FAA procurement system should speed up acquisition of the Advanced Automation System and the Automated Radar Terminal Warning System; and (3) over the past 3 years, the FAA systems engineering and integration services contract has increased over $200 million, the contractor's responsibilities have expanded, and the contractor has received 80 percent of the available performance award bonuses despite delays and cost overruns. GAO found that: (1) FAA plans to award a technical support services contract in June 1988 at an estimated cost of $350 million to $400 million; (2) NAS plan delays have postponed almost $38 billion in anticipated aviation user benefits; and (3) schedule delays have resulted in an estimated $5.6-billion unused balance in the airport and airway trust fund. GAO believes that Congress should: (1) appropriate the $130 million FAA requested for the radar terminal system; (2) not appropriate funds for a second procurement of microwave landing systems until FAA revises its implementation strategy; (3) continue to support FAA consolidation of its flight service stations; and (4) consider appropriating funds for the installation of automated weather observing systems.

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