Air Traffic Control:

Continuing Delays Anticipated for the Advanced Automation System

IMTEC-90-63: Published: Jul 18, 1990. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to develop the Advanced Automation System (AAS), focusing on whether FAA was effectively managing the first key AAS phase, the Initial Sector Suite System (ISSS), in order to minimize program delays.

GAO found that: (1) FAA estimated that AAS would cost approximately $5 billion; (2) FAA intended AAS to replace aging air traffic control computer systems with new hardware, software, and controller workstations; (3) 8 months after beginning work, FAA and the contractor task force reported a minimum 10-month delay in the ISSS software schedule, primarily due to unresolved requirements issues and inadequate schedule estimates, but thereafter amended the delay projection to 13 months; (4) FAA and the contractor had not modified the contract to reflect the delay; (5) additional delays are likely, since FAA has still not resolved requirements issues and has identified new requirements; (6) FAA and the contractor planned to perform early demonstrations of software capabilities, but software delays made it difficult to fully realize the benefits of such demonstrations; (7) by failing to run early demonstrations, the contractor might not be able to identify problems and resolve them in a timely manner; and (8) FAA expects ISSS delays to negatively impact subsequent AAS phases.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Transportation concurred with the recommendation. FAA and the contractor, IBM, subsequently agreed to an additional 6-month schedule extension to address open requirements issues and problems that could arise during system testing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to establish, with IBM, a new and realistic schedule for AAS development and delivery. An analysis should be conducted immediately that assesses remaining tasks and determines realistic time frames for IBM to complete the development and delivery of ISSS, as well as the remainder of AAS. The analysis should include an appropriate safety factor, such as the time needed to conduct retesting and tuning of the system to meet performance requirements. The analysis should also explore the feasibility of revising the order of AAS implementation to expedite modernization of larger terminal radar approach control facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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