Applicability of Public Law 89-306 to the FAA Procurement of Computers for the Air Traffic Control System

AFMD-82-47: Published: Feb 18, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1982.

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Carl R. Palmer
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) planning, management, and acquisition of automated information systems for air traffic control and FAA management purposes.

By the mid-1980's, FAA plans to replace the computers at the nation's en route air traffic control centers with computers capable of running the existing software with minimum modifications. The new computers which FAA plans to buy will be general purpose, mass-produced, commercially available computers. However, FAA officials do not plan to follow the process established under applicable law by the General Services Administration (GSA) for buying such automatic data processing (ADP) equipment. An important objective of the law is the economic acquisition of government ADP equipment. To carry out an acquisition of general purpose, mass-produced, commercially available ADP equipment, an agency must submit a procurement request to GSA for a delegation of procurement authority. FAA officials stated that they are procuring an air traffic control system, not a computer system, and that it is not subject to the GSA procurement process. Since GSA has jurisdiction over the procurement of ADP equipment supplied to the government, GAO concluded that, unless the Administrator of General Services specifically exempts FAA from following the applicable regulations, it does not have the legal authority to buy such equipment.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should revise Department of Transportation (DOT) Order 1370.2A to eliminate the present blanket exemption and to substitute language closer to the current GSA language.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: There is still inconsistency in how the Office of the Secretary and FAA handle air traffic control computer acquisitions. At issue is the development of a definitive DOT order on ADP acquisitions, including language pertaining to air traffic control computers.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should comply with the provisions of P.L. 89-306 in procuring the replacement computers for the air traffic control system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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