Airport Radar Acquisition:

FAA's Procurement of Airport Surface Detection Equipment

RCED-87-18: Published: Dec 17, 1986. Publicly Released: Dec 17, 1986.

Additional Materials:


Herbert R. McLure
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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) procurement of new airport surface detection equipment (ASDE), specifically: (1) FAA procedures to determine its ASDE-3 operational requirements and specifications; (2) the adequacy of FAA support for those requirements; (3) the extent of production risk inherent in the ASDE-3 specification; and (4) the accuracy of the FAA ASDE-3 benefit-cost study regarding planned quantities and locations for the new equipment.

GAO found that: (1) FAA adhered to Department of Transportation (DOT) and Office of Management and Budget guidance and policy regarding management decisions and approval in developing the ASDE-3 operational requirements; (2) FAA based its operational requirements and technical specifications on mission needs; (3) the specifications met updated operational requirements and posed reasonable schedule and performance risks; (4) the contractor experienced some scheduling problems and delayed its first unit testing by three weeks; (5) the display processor and remote maintenance will pose performance risks until the commencement of system testing in 1987; (6) because the contractor's monitoring system did not produce sufficient data, FAA oversight of production risks was hampered; (7) although the FAA program was cost-justified, its methodology did not accurately estimate the safety benefits; and (8) FAA does not have adequate data to accurately estimate passenger time savings and safety benefits.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA modified its contract to reflect the required changes to the contractor's progress tracking system.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should direct the ASDE-3 program office to: (1) evaluate the contractor's new system for tracking the contract schedule against planned milestones and ensure that it, or another system if necessary, will meet FAA needs for providing accurate information as a basis for making program decisions; and (2) use the results of the improved tracking system to identify performance and/or schedule areas requiring additional management control and determine, together with the contractor, how best to address these areas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT is requiring FAA to improve its benefit-cost methodology to more accurately estimate the value of such elements as passenger time savings and safety benefits.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to formulate an action plan for developing more accurate and complete measures of passenger time savings and safety benefits, including estimates of the time and cost required to accomplish this. The action plan should: (1) examine the methodology used to value passenger time savings; and (2) provide for obtaining better data to estimate the value of passenger time savings and safety improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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