FAA Communications Equipment Replacement Plans

MASAD-81-37: Published: Jul 29, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) voice communications equipment replacement plans. FAA planned a two-phase effort to replace existing leased telephone switching and FAA-owned radio control equipment. Some of the equipment would be replaced during the early 1980's with interim leased or purchased equipment while the Voice Switching and Control System (VSCS) was being developed. The interim equipment would be replaced with the VSCS during the late 1980's and early 1990's. The interim and VSCS equipment are to be computer controlled for automated circuit reconfigurations.

GAO feels that VSCS is not required because: (1) the current type of equipment, rather than computer controlled equipment, would satisfy the requirement; (2) much of the in-use equipment would last for many years; and (3) the replacement of older equipment with off-the-shelf equipment, rather than VSCS, would be more cost effective. The FAA cost-benefit study did not adequately support the VSCS because of errors and omissions. Further, the proposed contract specifications would likely attract only one qualified bidder. GAO recommended that FAA discontinue research and development on VSCS and cancel its planned purchase, use off-the-shelf equipment to obtain needed equipment, and revise the draft specifications for the interim equipment to allow for more competition and to control costs. FAA reduced its fiscal year 1982 VSCS research and development budget from nearly $4 million to $1.62 million and deferred the VSCS planned purchase. FAA now plans to use proposed Integrated Communications Switching System (ICSS) equipment, rather than VSCS, at towers and flight service stations and hopes to be able to use an expanded version of ICSS at enroute centers. Proposed revisions in the ICSS specifications will allow more cost competition and basically satisfy the GAO recommendation.

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