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Before the Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Commerce, Science, 
and Transportation, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT: 

Tuesday, July 25, 2006: 

Next Generation Air Transportation System: 

Preliminary Analysis of Progress and Challenges Associated with the 
Transformation of the National Airspace System: 

Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., Director Physical 
Infrastructure Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-915T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Aviation, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The health of our nation’s air transportation system is critical to our 
citizens and economy. However, the current approach to managing air 
transportation is becoming increasingly inefficient and operationally 
obsolete. In 2003, Congress created the Joint Planning and Development 
Office (JPDO) to plan for and coordinate, with federal and nonfederal 
stakeholders, a transformation from the current air traffic control 
(ATC) system to the “next generation air transportation system” 

Housed within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), JPDO has seven 
partner agencies that make up JPDO’s senior policy committee: the 
Departments of Transportation, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland 
Security; FAA; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
(NASA); and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 
This testimony, which provides preliminary results from GAO’s ongoing 
work on JPDO, provides information on (1) the status of JPDO’s efforts 
to plan for NGATS, (2) the key challenges facing JPDO as it moves 
forward with its planning efforts, and (3) the key challenges facing 
FAA as it implements the transformation while continuing its current 
operations. The statement is based on GAO’s analysis of JPDO documents, 
interviews, and the views of a panel of experts, as well as on past GAO 

What GAO Found: 

JPDO has developed a framework for planning and coordination with its 
federal partner agencies and nonfederal stakeholders that is consistent 
with the requirements of its authorizing legislation—Vision 100—and 
with several practices that our previous work has shown can facilitate 
federal interagency collaboration and the development of an enterprise 
architecture (i.e., system blueprint). JPDO’s framework includes an 
integrated plan that provides a vision for NGATS, an organizational 
structure and processes for leveraging the resources and expertise of 
federal and nonfederal stakeholders, and an enterprise architecture 
that defines the specific requirements for NGATS. 

As JPDO moves forward, it will face leadership, leveraging, and 
commitment challenges. Currently, JPDO lacks a permanent director and a 
permanent chairperson of its senior policy committee to provide the 
leadership needed to overcome barriers to interagency coordination. In 
addition, despite early successes, JPDO may have difficulty continuing 
to leverage its partner agencies’ resources and expertise for NGATS 
because these agencies have missions and priorities in addition to 
NGATS and JPDO does not yet have signed, long-term agreements with the 
partner agencies on their respective roles and responsibilities. 
Finally, JPDO faces the challenge of convincing nonfederal stakeholders 
that the government is fully committed to implementing NGATS, given 
that, in some instances, it has discontinued work on new technologies 
for the national airspace system. 

FAA faces challenges in institutionalizing recent improvements in its 
management and acquisition processes, as well as in obtaining the 
expertise and resources necessary to implement NGATS. First, 
institutionalizing FAA’s process improvements is critical to 
successfully implementing NGATS. Second, FAA may lack the expertise 
needed to manage the NGATS effort. GAO has identified two potential 
approaches for FAA to supplement its capabilities that FAA is 
considering. Third, achieving cost savings is critical to funding the 
implementation of NGATS. 

Figure: Air Traffic Management: 

[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO; PhotoDisc. 

[End of Figure] 


To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Gerald L. Dillingham, 
Ph.D., at (202) 512-2834 or 

[End of Section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in today's hearing to 
discuss the status of efforts by the Joint Planning and Development 
Office (JPDO) to plan for and coordinate the transformation of the 
nation's current air traffic control (ATC) system to the "next 
generation air transportation system" (NGATS)--a system intended to 
safely accommodate an expected tripling of air traffic by 2025. 
Authorized in 2003, JPDO is housed within the Federal Aviation 
Administration (FAA), whose Air Traffic Organization (ATO) is 
responsible for modernizing and operating the nation's current ATC 
system.[Footnote 1] According to Vision 100,[Footnote 2] the 
legislation that authorized JPDO, the transformation to NGATS will be 
completed by 2025 with the assistance of seven organizations that make 
up JPDO's senior policy committee: the Departments of Transportation, 
Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security; FAA; the National Aeronautics 
and Space Administration (NASA); and the White House Office of Science 
and Technology Policy. As JPDO plans the transformation to NGATS and 
coordinates the related efforts of its partner agencies, FAA will be 
responsible for both implementing the transformation and safely 
operating the current ATC system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

My statement today focuses on three key questions. (1) What is the 
status of JPDO's efforts to plan for NGATS? (2) What key challenges 
does JPDO face in moving forward with its planning efforts? (3) What 
key challenges does FAA face in transitioning from the current ATC 
system and in implementing NGATS? My statement is based on our analysis 
of documents provided by JPDO and its partner agencies; the 
perspectives of agency officials and stakeholders with whom we have 
spoken; the results of a panel of experts that we convened; and our 
review of relevant literature, including JPDO's December 2004 
integrated plan and March 2006 progress report. The statement also 
draws on our prior work on FAA's program for modernizing the national 
airspace system, which we have listed as a high-risk program since 
1995.[Footnote 3] To assess JPDO's framework for facilitating 
coordination among its partner agencies, obtaining the participation of 
nonfederal stakeholders, and conducting technical planning for NGATS, 
we compared JPDO's practices with those that we have found to be 
effective in facilitating federal interagency collaboration and 
enterprise architecture[Footnote 4] development.[Footnote 5] We also 
reviewed the National Research Council's 2005 report on JPDO, which 
provided a technical assessment of the research, development, and 
technology components of JPDO's integrated plan. Later this year, we 
expect to issue a report on our assessment of the status of JPDO's 
efforts to plan for the development of NGATS. We are performing our 
work in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 

The following summarizes our findings to date: 

* JPDO has developed a framework for planning and coordination with its 
partner agencies and nonfederal stakeholders that is consistent with 
the requirements of Vision 100 and with several practices that our 
previous work has shown can facilitate federal interagency 
collaboration and enterprise architecture development. Vision 100 
established JPDO as a planning and coordinating body and outlined 
elements for creating NGATS and managing the related work. These 
elements, which make up JPDO's framework, include an integrated plan 
that provides a vision for NGATS, an organizational structure and 
processes for leveraging the resources and expertise of federal and 
nonfederal stakeholders, and an enterprise architecture that defines 
the specific requirements for NGATS. 

* JPDO faces leadership, leveraging, and commitment challenges as it 
moves forward with planning for NGATS. Currently, two leadership 
positions critical to JPDO's success are vacant: JPDO has not had a 
permanent director for over 6 months, and since the Secretary of 
Transportation resigned, the senior policy committee has been without a 
permanent chairperson. In addition, despite early successes in 
leveraging its partner agencies' resources and expertise for NGATS 
initiatives, JPDO may have difficulty continuing to do so because its 
partner agencies have a variety of missions and priorities in addition 
to NGATS, and JPDO does not yet have formal, signed agreements with the 
agencies on their respective roles and responsibilities. JPDO also 
faces the challenge of convincing nonfederal stakeholders that the 
government is fully committed to NGATS because, in the past, the 
government has discontinued work on new technologies for the national 
airspace system, including one technology in which a nonfederal 
stakeholder had already invested. 

* FAA faces challenges in institutionalizing recent improvements in its 
management and acquisition processes, as well as in obtaining the 
expertise and resources needed to implement NGATS. First, the 
successful implementation of NGATS will depend on FAA's incorporating 
the improved processes into its organizational structure and culture. 
Second, FAA may not have the expertise needed to manage the NGATS 
implementation effort. Our work has identified, and FAA is considering, 
two approaches for addressing this challenge--contracting with a lead 
systems integrator and obtaining technical advice from federally funded 
research and development corporations. Third, FAA will need resources 
to implement NGATS, some of which may have to come from savings in 
operating and maintaining the current ATC system. 


In late 2003, recognizing that the current approach to managing air 
transportation is becoming increasingly inefficient and operationally 
obsolete, Congress created JPDO to plan NGATS, a system intended to 
accommodate the threefold increase in air traffic demand expected by 
2025. JPDO's scope is broader than that of traditional ATC 
modernization in that it is "airport curb to airport curb," 
encompassing such issues as security screening and environmental 
concerns. Additionally, JPDO's approach will require unprecedented 
collaboration and consensus among many stakeholders--federal and 
nonfederal--about necessary system capabilities, equipment, procedures, 
and regulations. Each of JPDO's partner agencies will play a role in 
the transformation to NGATS. For example, the Department of Defense has 
deployed "network centric" systems,[Footnote 6] originally developed 
for the battlefield, that are being considered as a conceptual 
framework to provide all users of the national airspace system--FAA and 
the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security--with a common view of 
that system. 

Vision 100 required the Secretary of Transportation to establish JPDO 
within FAA to manage work related to NGATS. The Director of JPDO 
reports to the FAA Administrator and to the Chief Operating Officer 
within ATO. JPDO began operating in early 2004. 

JPDO Has Made Progress in Planning for NGATS: 

JPDO has developed a framework for planning and coordination with its 
partner agencies and nonfederal stakeholders that is consistent with 
the requirements of Vision 100 and with several practices that our work 
has shown can facilitate federal interagency collaboration and 
enterprise architecture development. This framework includes an 
integrated plan, an organizational structure, and an enterprise 

As Required by Vision 100, JPDO Developed an Integrated Plan and 
Reported on the Progress of That Plan: 

Vision 100 calls for the development of an integrated plan for NGATS 
and annual updates on the progress of that plan. JPDO's partner 
agencies developed an integrated plan and submitted it to Congress on 
December 12, 2004. The plan includes a vision statement for meeting the 
predicted threefold increase in demand for air transportation by 2025 
and eight strategies that broadly address the goals and objectives for 
NGATS. In March 2006, JPDO published its first report to Congress on 
the progress made in carrying out the integrated plan. 

The integrated plan is consistent with effective collaboration 
practices we have identified. According to our research on federal 
interagency collaborations, agencies must have a clear and compelling 
rationale for working together to overcome significant differences in 
their missions, cultures, and established ways of doing business. In 
working together to develop JPDO's integrated plan, the partner 
agencies agreed on a vision statement to transform the air 
transportation system and on broad statements of future system goals, 
performance characteristics, and operational concepts. 

JPDO Developed an Organization for Involving Federal and Nonfederal 

Vision 100 includes requirements for JPDO to coordinate and consult 
with its partner agencies, private sector experts, and the public. 
Accordingly, JPDO established an organizational structure to involve 
federal and nonfederal stakeholders throughout the organization. This 
structure includes a federal interagency policy committee, an institute 
for nonfederal stakeholders, and integrated product teams (IPT) that 
bring together federal and nonfederal experts to plan for and 
coordinate the development of technologies that will address JPDO's 
eight broad strategies. 

* JPDO's senior policy committee was formed and is headed by the 
Secretary of Transportation, as required in Vision 100. The committee 
includes senior-level officials from JPDO's partner agencies and has 
met three times since its inception. 

* The NGATS Institute (the Institute) was created by an agreement 
between the National Center for Advanced Technologies[Footnote 7] and 
FAA to incorporate the expertise and views of stakeholders in private 
industry, state and local governments, and academia. The NGATS 
Institute Management Council, composed of top officials and 
representatives from the aviation community, oversees the policy and 
recommendations of the Institute and provides a means for advancing 
consensus positions on critical NGATS issues. In March 2006, the 
Institute held its first public meeting to solicit information from the 
public and other interested stakeholders who are not involved in the 
council or the IPTs. These types of meetings are designed to address 
the Vision 100 requirement that JPDO coordinate and consult with the 

* The IPTs are headed by representatives of JPDO's partner agencies and 
include more than 190 stakeholders from over 70 organizations, whose 
participation was arranged through the Institute. 

Figure 1 shows JPDO's position within FAA and the JPDO structures that 
bring together federal and nonfederal stakeholders, including the 
Institute and the IPTs. 

Figure 1: Organization of JPDO: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: JPDO. 

[End of figure] 

JPDO's organizational structure incorporates some of the practices we 
have found effective for federal interagency collaborations. For 
example, our work has shown that mutually reinforcing or joint 
strategies can help align partner agencies' activities, core processes, 
and resources to accomplish a common outcome. Each of the eight IPTs is 
aligned with one of the eight strategies outlined in JPDO's integrated 
plan, and each is headed by a partner agency that has taken the lead on 
a specific strategy. Our research has also found that collaborating 
agencies should identify the resources needed to initiate or sustain 
their collaborative effort. To leverage human resources, JPDO has 
staffed the various levels of its organization--including JPDO's board, 
the IPTs, and technical divisions--with partner agency employees, many 
of whom work part time for JPDO. Finally, our work has shown that 
involving stakeholders can, among other things, increase their support 
for a collaborative effort. The Institute provides for involving 
nonfederal stakeholders, including the public, in planning NGATS. 

JPDO Has Begun to Leverage the Resources of Its Partner Agencies for 

Vision 100 requires JPDO to coordinate NGATS-related programs across 
the partner agencies. To address this requirement, JPDO conducted an 
initial interagency review of its partner agencies' research and 
development programs during July 2005 to identify work that could 
support NGATS. Through this process, JPDO identified early 
opportunities that could be pursued during fiscal year 2007 to 
coordinate and minimize the duplication of research programs across the 
partner agencies and produce tangible results for NGATS. For example, 
one identified opportunity is to align aviation weather research across 
FAA, NASA, and the Departments of Commerce and Defense; develop a 
common weather capability; and harmonize and incorporate into NGATS 
those agency programs designed to seamlessly integrate weather 
information and aircraft weather mitigation systems. In addition, the 
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)[Footnote 8] and 
System Wide Information System (SWIM)[Footnote 9] programs at FAA were 
identified as opportunities for accelerated funding to produce tangible 
results for NGATS. JPDO is currently working with the Office of 
Management and Budget to develop a systematic means of reviewing the 
partner agencies' budget requests so that the NGATS-related funding in 
each request can easily be identified. Such a process would help the 
Office of Management and Budget consider NGATS as a unified federal 
investment, rather than as disparate line items distributed across 
several agencies' budget requests. 

JPDO's effort to leverage its partner agencies' resources for NGATS 
demonstrates another practice important to sustaining collaborations. 
Our work on collaborations has found that collaborating agencies, by 
assessing their relative strengths and limitations, can identify 
opportunities for leveraging each others' resources and thus obtain 
benefits that would not be available if they were working separately. 
JPDO's first interagency review of its partner agencies' research and 
development programs has facilitated the leveraging of technological 
resources for NGATS. The budget process under development with OMB 
provides a further opportunity to leverage resources for NGATS. 

Consistent with Vision 100, JPDO Is Developing an Enterprise 

Vision 100 requires JPDO to create a multiagency research and 
development roadmap for the transition to NGATS. To comply with Vision 
100, JPDO has been working on an enterprise architecture and expects to 
complete an early version of the architecture by September 2006. Many 
of JPDO's future activities will depend on the robustness and 
timeliness of this architecture development. The enterprise 
architecture will describe FAA's operation of the current national 
airspace system, JPDO's plans for NGATS, and the sequence of steps 
needed for the transformation to NGATS. The enterprise architecture 
will provide the means for coordinating among the partner agencies and 
private sector manufacturers, aligning relevant research and 
development activities, and integrating equipment. 

JPDO has taken several important steps to develop the enterprise 
architecture--one of the most critical planning documents in the NGATS 
effort. For example, JPDO has drafted a concept of operations--a 
document that describes the operational transformations needed to 
achieve the overall goals of NGATS. JPDO has used this document to 
identify key research and policy issues for NGATS. For example, the 
concept of operations identifies several issues associated with 
automating the ATC system, including the need for a backup plan in case 
automation fails, the responsibilities and liabilities of different 
stakeholders during an automation failure, and the level of monitoring 
needed by pilots when automation is ensuring safe separation between 
aircraft. As the concept of operations matures, it will be important 
for air traffic controllers and other affected stakeholders to provide 
their perspectives on this effort so that needed adjustments can be 
made in a timely manner. JPDO officials recognize the importance of 
obtaining stakeholders' comments on the concept of operations and are 
currently incorporating stakeholders' comments into the concept of 
operations. JPDO expects to release its initial concept of operations 
by the end of July. 

Another step that JPDO has taken to develop the enterprise architecture 
is to form an Evaluation and Analysis Division (EAD), composed of FAA 
and NASA employees and contractors. This division is assembling a suite 
of models to help JPDO refine its plans for NGATS and iteratively 
narrow the range of potential solutions. For example, EAD has used 
modeling to begin studying how possible changes in the duties of key 
personnel, such as air traffic controllers, could affect the workload 
and performance of others, such as airport ground personnel. According 
to JPDO officials, the change in the roles of pilots and controllers is 
the most important human factors issue involved in creating NGATS. JPDO 
officials noted that the Agile Airspace and Safety IPTs include human 
factors specialists and that JPDO's chief architect has a background in 
human factors. However, EAD has not yet begun to model the effect of 
the shift in roles on pilots' performance because, according to an EAD 
official, a suitable model has not yet been incorporated into the 
modeling tool suite. According to EAD, addressing this issue is 
necessary, but will be difficult because data on pilot behavior are not 
readily available for use in creating such models. Furthermore, EAD has 
not yet studied the training implications of various NGATS-proposed 
solutions because further definition of the concept of operations for 
these solutions is needed. As the concept of operations and enterprise 
architecture mature, EAD will be able to study the extent to which new 
air traffic controllers will have to be trained to operate both the old 
and the new equipment. 

To develop and refine the enterprise architecture for NGATS, JPDO is 
following an effective technology development practice that we 
identified and applied to enterprise architecture development. This 
phased, "build a little, test a little" approach is similar to a 
process we have advocated for FAA's major system acquisition programs. 
This phased approach will also allow JPDO to incorporate evolving 
market forces and technologies in its architecture and thus better 
manage change. Consequently, additional refinements are expected to be 
made to the enterprise architecture. 

As Required by Vision 100, JPDO Has Begun Efforts to Estimate the Costs 
of NGATS: 

Vision 100 requires JPDO to identify the anticipated expenditures for 
developing and deploying NGATS. To begin estimating these expenditures 
realistically, JPDO is holding a series of investment analysis 
workshops with stakeholders to obtain their input on potential NGATS 
costs. The first workshop, held in April 2006, was for commercial and 
business aviation, equipment manufacturers, and ATC systems developers. 
The second workshop is planned for August for operators of lower- 
performance aircraft used in both commercial and noncommercial 
operations. The third workshop, planned for early September, will focus 
on airports and other local, state, and regional planning bodies. 

Although these workshops will help JPDO develop a range of potential 
costs for NGATS, a mature enterprise architecture is needed to provide 
the foundation for developing NGATS costs. Several unknown factors will 
drive these costs. According to JPDO, one of these drivers is the 
technologies expected to be included in NGATS. Some of these 
technologies are more complex and thus more expensive to implement than 
others. A second driver is the sequence for replacing current 
technologies with NGATS technologies. A third driver is the length of 
time required for the transformation to NGATS, since a longer period 
would impose higher costs. JPDO's first draft of its enterprise 
architecture, expected in September 2006, could reduce some of these 
variables, thereby allowing improved, albeit still preliminary, 
estimates of NGATS' costs. 

Although the enterprise architecture for NGATS is not yet complete, 
both FAA and its Research, Engineering and Development Advisory 
Committee (REDAC) have developed preliminary cost estimates, which 
officials of both organizations have emphasized are not yet endorsed by 
any agency. FAA estimates that the facilities and equipment cost to 
maintain the ATC system and implement the transformation to NGATS will 
be about $66 billion, or about $50 billion in constant 2005 dollars. 
The annual cost would average $2.7 billion per year in constant 2005 
dollars from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2025, or about $200 
million more each year than FAA's fiscal year 2006 facilities and 
equipment appropriation. 

REDAC's Financing NGATS Working Group has developed a $15 billion 
average annual cost estimate for NGATS that includes costs not only for 
facilities and equipment but also for operations; airport improvement; 
and research, engineering, and development--the remaining three 
components of FAA's appropriation. As table 1 indicates, the working 
group began with FAA's facilities and equipment estimate and went on to 
calculate the remaining costs for FAA to maintain the current ATC 
system and implement the transformation to NGATS. REDAC's estimate for 
NGATS's total cost averages about $1 billion more annually than FAA's 
total appropriations for fiscal year 2006. 

Table 1: FAA's and REDAC's Cost Estimates for NGATS: 

Dollars in billions. 

Facilities and equipment; 
FAA: Total NGATS cost: $50.5; 
FAA: Average annual cost: $2.7; 
REDAC[A]: Total NGATS cost: $50.5; 
REDAC[A]: Average annual cost: $2.7. 

FAA: Total NGATS cost: [B]; 
FAA: Average annual cost: [B]; 
REDAC[A]: Total NGATS cost: $162.1; 
REDAC[A]: Average annual cost: $8.5. 

Airport improvement; 
FAA: Total NGATS cost: [B]; 
FAA: Average annual cost: [B]; 
REDAC[A]: Total NGATS cost: $67.5; 
REDAC[A]: Average annual cost: $3.6. 

Research, engineering, and development; 
FAA: Total NGATS cost: [B]; 
FAA: Average annual cost: [B]; 
REDAC[A]: Total NGATS cost: $12.4; 
REDAC[A]: Average annual cost: $0.7. 

FAA: Total NGATS cost: [B]; 
FAA: Average annual cost: [B]; 
REDAC[A]: Total NGATS cost: $292.5; 
REDAC[A]: Average annual cost: $15.5. 

Source: GAO analysis of FAA and REDAC information. 

[A] This is the working group's estimate under its "base case" 
scenario, which assumes that FAA's operations cost would increase 
between 2006 and 2010, but then become constant through 2025 as 
productivity increases offset the higher cost of increased demand. The 
working group also calculated a lower-cost "best case" scenario and a 
higher-cost "worst case" scenario using differing assumptions of 
productivity gains. 

[B] FAA did not estimate these costs. 

[End of table] 

Besides being preliminary, these estimates are incomplete--FAA's more 
than REDAC's because FAA's does not include any costs other than those 
for facilities and equipment. An FAA official acknowledged that the 
agency would likely incur additional costs, such as for safety 
certifications or operational changes responding to new NGATS 
technologies. Additionally, FAA's facilities and equipment cost 
estimate assumes that the intermediate technology development work, 
performed to date by NASA, has been completed. As I will discuss 
shortly, it is currently unclear who will now perform this work, but if 
FAA assumes responsibility for the work, REDAC has estimated additional 
FAA funding needs of at least $100 million a year. Furthermore, neither 
FAA's nor REDAC's estimate includes the other partner agencies' costs 
to implement NGATS, such as those that the Department of Homeland 
Security might incur to develop and implement new security 
technologies. Finally, these estimates treat NGATS's development and 
implementation period as an isolated event. Consequently, the costs 
drop dramatically toward 2025. In reality, officials who developed 
these estimates acknowledge that planning for the subsequent "next 
generation" system will likely be underway as 2025 approaches and the 
actual modernization costs could therefore be higher in this time frame 
than these estimates indicate. 

JPDO Faces Leadership, Resource, and Commitment Challenges as It Moves 
Forward with Planning for NGATS: 

JPDO faces several challenges in planning for NGATS, including 
addressing leadership vacancies, leveraging resources and expertise 
from its partner agencies, and convincing nonfederal stakeholders that 
the government is fully committed to NGATS. 

Two Key JPDO Leadership Positions Are Vacant: 

JPDO has not had a permanent director since January 2006 and, with the 
recent resignation of the Secretary of Transportation, the senior 
policy committee is without a permanent chairperson. Our work has shown 
that, to overcome barriers to interagency coordination, committed 
leadership by individuals at the top of all involved organizations is 
critical. Leadership will also be important to provide a "champion" for 
JPDO and to sustain the partner agencies' focus on and contributions to 
the transformation to NGATS. Moreover, without a chairperson of the 
senior policy committee, no one within JPDO is responsible for 
sustaining JPDO's collaboration and overseeing its work. 

These vacancies raise concerns about the continued progress of JPDO and 
NGATS. After ATO was authorized, we reported that without a chief 
operating officer, FAA was unable to move forward with the new air 
traffic organization--that is, to bring together the ATC system's 
acquisition and operating functions, as intended, into a viable 
performance-based organization (PBO).[Footnote 10] This PBO was 
designed to be part of the solution to the chronic schedule delays, 
cost overruns, and performance shortfalls in FAA's ATC modernization 
program. We believe that filling the two vacant positions is critical 
to ensure continued progress for JPDO and NGATS. 

Leveraging Resources and Expertise Poses a Challenge over Time: 

JPDO officials view leveraging the partner agencies' resources and 
expertise as one of their most significant challenges. According to 
JPDO officials, leveraging efforts have worked well so far, but JPDO's 
need for resources and expertise will increase with the development of 
NGATS, and for at least two reasons, JPDO may have difficulty meeting 
this need. First, JPDO's partner agencies have a variety of missions 
and priorities in addition to NGATS, and their priorities may change. 
Recently, for example, NASA reduced its aeronautics budget and decided 
to focus on fundamental[Footnote 11] research, in part because the 
agency believes such research is more in keeping with its mission and 
unique capabilities. These changes occurred even though NASA's current 
reauthorization act requires the agency to align its aviation research 
projects to directly support NGATS goals. In light of the changes, it 
is unclear what fundamental research NASA will perform to support NGATS 
and who will perform the development steps for that research--that is, 
the validation and demonstration that must take place before a new 
technology can be transferred to industry and incorporated into a 
product. JPDO and FAA officials said that not enough is understood 
about NASA's plans to assess the impact of NASA's action on NGATS, but 
many experts told us that NASA's new focus on fundamental research 
creates a gap in the technology development continuum. Some believe 
that FAA has neither the research and development infrastructure nor 
the funding to do this work. As I previously mentioned, REDAC, in a 
draft report, estimated that FAA would need at least $100 million 
annually in increased funding to perform this research and development 
work. REDAC further estimated that establishing the necessary 
infrastructure within FAA could delay the implementation of NGATS by 5 

Second, JPDO may have difficulty leveraging its partner agencies' 
resources and expertise because it does not yet have formal, long-term 
agreements with the agencies on their roles and responsibilities in 
creating NGATS. According to JPDO officials, they are working to 
establish memorandums of understanding (MOU) signed by the heads of the 
partner agencies that will broadly define the partner agencies' roles 
and responsibilities at a high level. JPDO is also developing more 
specific MOUs with individual partner agencies that lay out 
expectations for support on NGATS components, such as information 
sharing through network-centric operations. 

Obtaining the specialized expertise of some stakeholders poses an 
additional challenge for JPDO. Air traffic controllers, for example, 
will play a key role in NGATS, but their union is not participating in 
JPDO. Currently, the ATC system relies primarily on air traffic 
controllers to direct pilots to maintain safe separation between 
aircraft. Under NGATS, this premise could change and, accordingly, JPDO 
has recognized the need for human factors research on issues such as 
how tasks should be allocated between humans and automated systems and 
how the existing allocation of responsibilities between pilots and air 
traffic controllers might change. The input of current air traffic 
controllers who have recent experience controlling aircraft is 
important in considering human factors and safety issues because of the 
controllers' familiarity with existing operating conditions. 

The air traffic controllers' labor union, the National Air Traffic 
Controllers Association (NATCA), has not participated in NGATS since 
June 2005, when FAA terminated a labor liaison program that assigned 
air traffic controllers to major system acquisition program offices and 
to JPDO. FAA had determined that the benefits of the program were not 
great enough to justify its cost. The NGATS Institute Management 
Council includes a seat for the union, but a NATCA official told us 
that the union's head had been unable to attend the council's meetings. 
According to JPDO officials, the council has left a seat open in hopes 
that the controllers will participate in NGATS as the new labor- 
management agreement between NATCA and FAA is implemented. 

Convincing Nonfederal Stakeholders That the Government Is Fully 
Committed to NGATS Presents Another Challenge: 

Convincing nonfederal stakeholders that the government is fully 
committed to NGATS poses a challenge because, in the past, the 
government has stopped some modernization efforts, including one in 
which an airline had already invested in supporting technologies. 
Specifically, FAA developed a datalink communications system that 
transmitted scripted e-mail-like messages between controllers and 
pilots. One airline equipped some of its aircraft with this new 
technology, but because of funding cuts, among other things, FAA 
canceled the program. Moreover, as we have reported,[Footnote 12] some 
aviation stakeholders have expressed concern that FAA may not follow 
through with its airspace redesign efforts and are hesitant to invest 
in equipment unless they are sure that FAA will remain committed to its 
efforts. One expert suggested that the government might mitigate this 
issue by making an initial investment in a specific technology before 
requesting that airlines or other industry stakeholders purchase 

Stakeholders' belief that the government is fully committed to NGATS 
will be important as efforts to implement NGATS technologies move 
forward. Achieving many of the benefits of NGATS will require users of 
the system--airlines and general aviation--to purchase NGATS- 
compatible technologies, such as ADS-B. This new air traffic 
surveillance system, which JPDO has identified as one of the early core 
technologies for NGATS, requires aircraft to be equipped with 
components that will be implemented in two phases. FAA anticipates 
significant cost savings from the implementation of the first phase, 
but the airlines do not expect to benefit until the second phase is 
complete. The technology should then allow pilots to fly more precise 
routes at night and in poor visual conditions. Another early core 
technology for NGATS, SWIM, is also intended to produce benefits for 
users, but again, it is not expected to do so for many years. 
Nonfederal stakeholders' support for these and other NGATS technologies 
will be important, and their support will depend, in part, on their 
assurance of the government's full commitment. 

FAA Faces Institutionalization, Expertise, and Resource Challenges as 
It Transitions to NGATS: 

FAA faces challenges in implementing NGATS, including 
institutionalizing recent improvements in its management and 
acquisition processes, acquiring expertise to implement highly complex 
systems, and achieving cost savings to help fund NGATS technologies. 

Institutionalizing Recent Improvements in Management and Acquisition 
Processes Will Be Critical to the Successful Implementation of NGATS: 

With the establishment of ATO and the appointment of a Chief Operating 
Officer (COO) for it, FAA put a new management structure in place and 
established more businesslike management and acquisition processes to 
address the cost, schedule, and performance shortfalls that have 
plagued ATC modernization over the years. Under the new structure, FAA 
is a flatter organization, with fewer management layers, and managers 
are in closer contact with the services they deliver. FAA has also 
taken some steps to break down the vertical lines of authority, or 
organizational stovepipes, that we found hindered communication and 
coordination across FAA. For example, the COO holds daily meetings with 
the managers of ATO's departments and holds the managers collectively 
responsible for the success of ATO through the performance management 

FAA has revised its management processes to increase accountability. 
For example, it has established a cost accounting system and made the 
units that deliver services within each department responsible for 
managing their own costs. Thus, each unit manager develops an operating 
budget and is held accountable for holding costs within specific 
targets. Managers track the costs of their unit's operations, 
facilities and equipment, and overhead and use this information to 
determine the costs of the services their unit provides. Managers are 
evaluated and rewarded according to how well they hold their costs 
within established targets. Our work has shown that it is important, 
when implementing organizational transformations, to use a performance 
management system to assure accountability for change.[Footnote 13] 

Finally, FAA is revising its acquisition processes, as we 
recommended,[Footnote 14] and taking steps to improve oversight, 
operational efficiency, and cost control. To ensure executive-level 
oversight of all key decisions, FAA has revised its Acquisition 
Management System to incorporate key decision points in a knowledge- 
based product development process. Moreover, as we have reported, an 
executive council now reviews major acquisitions before they are sent 
to FAA's Joint Resources Council.[Footnote 15] To better manage cost 
growth, this executive council also reviews breaches of 5 percent or 
more in a project's cost, schedule, or performance. FAA has issued 
guidance on how to develop and use pricing, including guidelines for 
disclosing the levels of uncertainty and imprecision that are inherent 
in cost estimates for major ATC systems. Additionally, FAA has begun to 
base funding decisions for system acquisitions on a system's expected 
contribution to controlling operating costs. Finally, FAA is creating a 
training framework for its acquisition workforce that mirrors effective 
human capital practices that we have identified, and the agency is 
taking steps to measure the effectiveness of its training. 

Since 2004, FAA has met its acquisitions performance goal--to have 80 
percent of its system acquisitions on schedule and within 10 percent of 
budget. To sustain this record, FAA will need to institutionalize its 
reforms--that is, provide for their duration beyond the current 
administration at FAA and ATO by ensuring that the reforms are fully 
integrated into the agency's structure and processes at all levels and 
have become part of its organizational culture. Our work has shown that 
successfully institutionalizing change in large public and private 
organizations can take 5 to 7 years or more.[Footnote 16] 

Despite Recent Process Improvements, FAA Faces Challenges in Obtaining 
the Expertise Needed to Implement a System as Complex as NGATS: 

In the past, a lack of expertise contributed to shortfalls in FAA's 
management of ATC modernization projects. Although the personnel 
flexibilities that Congress authorized in 1995 allowed FAA to establish 
criteria for outstanding performance and match industry pay scales for 
needed expertise, industry experts have questioned whether FAA will 
have the technical expertise needed to implement NGATS--a task of 
unprecedented complexity, according to JPDO, FAA, and other aviation 
experts. In 2004, we found that FAA could not ensure that its own best 
practices were consistently used in managing acquisitions and, as a 
result, its major acquisitions were still at risk of cost overruns, 
schedule slippages, or performance shortfalls.[Footnote 17] These 
findings are consistent with concerns about the expertise of 
acquisition managers governmentwide. According to a 2005 study by the 
Merit Systems Protection Board,[Footnote 18] at least 50 percent of the 
government personnel who currently manage technical contracts reported 
needing training in areas such as contract law, developing 
requirements, requesting bids, developing bid selection criteria and 
price determinations, and monitoring contractor performance. 

Recognizing the complexity of the NGATS implementation effort and the 
possibility that FAA may not have the in-house expertise to manage it 
without assistance, we have identified potential approaches for 
supplementing FAA's capabilities. One of these approaches is for FAA to 
contract with a lead systems integrator (LSI). Generally, an LSI is a 
prime contractor that would help to ensure that the discrete systems 
used in NGATS will operate together and whose responsibilities may 
include designing system solutions, developing requirements, and 
selecting major system and subsystem contractors. The government has 
used LSIs before for programs that require the integration of multiple 
complex systems. Our research indicates that although LSIs have certain 
advantages, such as the knowledge, understanding, skills, and ability 
to integrate functions across various systems, their use also entails 
certain risks. For example, because an LSI may have significantly more 
responsibility than a prime contractor usually does, careful oversight 
is necessary to ensure that the government's interests are protected 
and that conflicts of interest are avoided. Consequently, selecting, 
assigning responsibilities to, and managing an LSI could pose 
significant challenges for JPDO and FAA. 

Another approach that we have identified involves obtaining technical 
advice from federally funded research and development corporations to 
help the agency oversee and manage prime contractors. These nonprofit 
corporations are chartered to provide long-term technical advice to 
government agencies in accordance with various statutory and regulatory 
rules to ensure independence and prevent conflicts of interest. 

FAA officials indicated that they are considering at least these two 
approaches to help address any possible gaps the agency may have in its 
technical expertise. Given the complexity of implementing NGATS, we 
believe that FAA's consideration of these approaches to filling any 
gaps in its technical expertise is appropriate. We believe that either 
of these approaches could reduce the risks associated with implementing 

FAA Will Require Resources to Implement NGATS: 

The cost of operating and maintaining the current ATC system while 
implementing NGATS will be another important challenge in transitioning 
to NGATS--a system that, as noted, is broader in scope than the current 
ATC system and will require funding for security technologies and 
environmental activities as well as ATC technologies. Although 
additional funding for the current ATC system and for NGATS may come 
from increased congressional appropriations, some industry analysts 
expect that most of the funds for implementing NGATS will have to come 
from savings in operating and maintaining the current ATC system. 

FAA is currently seeking to reduce costs by introducing infrastructure 
and operational efficiencies and expects to use the savings from these 
efforts to help fund the implementation of NGATS. For example, FAA has 
begun to decommission ground-based navigational aids, such as compass 
locators, outer markers, and nondirectional radio beacons, as it begins 
to move toward a satellite-based navigation system. In fiscal year 
2005, FAA decommissioned 177 navigational aids, claiming savings of 
$2.9 million. According to one expert, FAA could additionally generate 
revenue from these sites by leasing them for warehouses or cell phone 
towers. FAA also expects to reduce costs by streamlining its 
operations. For example, it is consolidating its administrative 
activities, currently decentralized across its nine regions, into three 
regions, and anticipates an annual savings of up to $460 million over 
the next 10 years. Our work analyzing international air navigation 
service providers has shown that additional cost savings may be 
possible by further consolidating ATC facilities such as terminal radar 
approach control (TRACON) facilities and ATC centers. According to one 
estimate of potential FAA savings, consolidating the existing 21 air 
route traffic control centers into 6 centers could save approximately 
$600 million per year. Finally, FAA expects to save costs through 
outsourcing. For example, it outsourced its automated flight service 
stations to a private contractor and expects to achieve savings of $1.7 
billion over 10 years. In addition, it expects savings of $0.5 billion 
from 400 staffing reductions that occurred between the time the 
outsourcing began and the time the new contract was actually 
implemented. The agency expects to receive $66 million--the first 
installment of these cost savings--in fiscal year 2007. 

Until FAA has completed its estimates of both NGATS costs and the cost 
savings it will be able to achieve between now and 2025, it will not be 
able to determine how far these cost savings will go toward financing 
NGATS. Nonetheless, one analyst has preliminarily estimated that FAA's 
expected savings through infrastructure and operational efficiencies 
will fall far short of the amount needed to finance NGATS.[Footnote 19] 
While more information is needed to estimate the amount of any 
shortfall with greater confidence, these preliminary and incomplete 
estimates signal the extent of the resource challenge. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. We would be pleased to 
answer any questions that you and Members of the Subcommittee may have. 

Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information on this testimony, please contact Gerald 
Dillingham at (202) 512-2834 or Individuals making 
key contributions to this statement include Kevin Egan, Elizabeth 
Eisenstadt, David Hooper, Heather Krause, Elizabeth Marchak, Edmond 
Menoche, Faye Morrison, Taylor Reeves, and Richard Scott. 


[1] Although ATO is immediately responsible for modernizing the ATC 
system, we will refer to FAA throughout this statement because it 
encompasses JPDO and is ultimately responsible for the modernization 

[2] Pub. L. No. 108-176, Vision 100--Century of Aviation 
Reauthorization Act, December 12, 2003. 

[3] ATC modernization has remained on our high-risk list since 1995. 
See GAO, High Risk Series: An Update, GAO-05-207 (Washington, D.C.: 
January 2005). 

[4] An enterprise architecture is a tool, or blueprint, for 
understanding and planning complex systems. The NGATS enterprise 
architecture will provide the means for coordinating among the partner 
agencies and private sector manufacturers, aligning relevant research 
and development activities, and integrating equipment. The enterprise 
architecture will describe the current national airspace system, NGATS, 
and the sequence of steps needed to implement the transformation to 

[5] GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance 
and Sustain Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005) and GAO, Federal Aviation 
Administration: Stronger Architecture Program Needed to Guide Systems 
Modernization Efforts, GAO-05-266 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 29, 2005). 

[6] Network-centric systems aim to exploit technical advances in 
information technology and telecommunications to improve situational 
awareness and the speed of decision making. 

[7] The National Center for Advanced Technologies is a nonprofit unit 
within the Aerospace Industries Association. 

[8] ADS-B is a surveillance technology that transmits an aircraft's 
identity, position, velocity, and intent to other aircraft and to ATC 
systems on the ground, thereby enabling pilots and controllers to have 
a common picture of airspace and traffic. By providing pilots with a 
display that shows the location of nearby aircraft, the system enables 
pilots to collaborate in decision making with controllers, safely 
allowing reduced aircraft separation and thereby increasing capacity 
within the national airspace system. 

[9] SWIM is expected to help in the transition to network-centric 
operations by providing the infrastructure and associated policies and 
standards to enable information sharing among all authorized system 
users, such as the airlines, civilian government agencies, and the 

[10] GAO, National Airspace System: Current Efforts and Proposed 
Changes to Improve Performance of FAA's Air Traffic Control System; GAO-
03-542 (Washington, D.C.: May 30, 2003). 

[11] NASA uses the term fundamental to refer to research that includes 
continued long-term, scientific study in core areas such as physics, 
chemistry, materials, experimental techniques, and computational 
techniques to enable new capabilities and technologies for individual 
and multiple disciplines. 

[12] GAO, National Airspace System: Transformation will Require 
Cultural Change, Balanced Funding Priorities, and Use of All Available 
Management Tools, GAO-06-154 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 14, 2005). 

[13] GAO-03-542. 

[14] GAO, Air Traffic Control: FAA's Acquisition Management Has 
Improved, but Policies and Oversight Need Strengthening to Help Ensure 
Results, GAO-05-23 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 12, 2004). 

[15] GAO-05-23. 

[16] GAO, Results-Oriented Cultures: Implementation Steps to Assist 
Mergers and Organizational Transformations, GAO-03-669 (Washington, 
D.C.: July 2, 2003). 

[17] GAO-05-23. 

[18] U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Contracting Officer 
Representatives: Managing the Government's Technical Experts to Achieve 
Positive Contract Outcomes (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 2005). 

[19] Aviation Management Associates, Inc., The "No New Money" Scenario 
for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, (Alexandria, VA: 
Oct. 1, 2005). 

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