Air Traffic Control:

Justifications for Capital Investments Need Strengthening

RCED-93-55: Published: Jan 14, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1993.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) process for developing mission need statements, focusing on whether: (1) mission need statements supported the need for new investments; and (2) FAA based its analyses on current air traffic control system performance.

GAO found that FAA: (1) improved and increased its use of mission need statements, but it did not factually support 81 percent of its needs in the statements examined; (2) did not use the extensive data resources available to document its needs and incorporated few system users' views on system performance; (3) did not measure or analyze in most statements its current operations' performance to determine its needs, target improvements, and set priorities; (4) took the unnecessary risks of not choosing the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions to its problems, and not knowing if its needs had changed; (5) acquisition orders and instructions did not stress the importance of conducting mission analyses; (6) found it difficult to locate and collect appropriate data to support its mission need statements; and (7) had little incentive to document its mission need statements, since it included many of the unsupported acquisitions in its budget request.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Recent GAO work (T-RCED-94-191, April 19, 1994) found that FAA has given greater scrutiny to mission need statements. For example, of the 31 mission needs statement proposals developed for the FY 1995 budget cycle, 11 (35 percent) were withdrawn by FAA program sponsors because they could not quantify a need or because the proposals were a low priority.

    Recommendation: In order to identify and assess FAA acquisition needs, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to approve only those mission need statements that are well supported with analytical evidence of current and projected needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On March 19, 1993, FAA issued a revised acquisition policy. The new policy sets up mission need determination as a separate phase in the acquisition process. Mission need determination is the starting point in the acquisition process and must occur before a mission needs statement can be initiated. In addition, FAA recently issued Mission Need Determination guidance that further describes the required need determination process. This document sets out a strategy for developing a mission needs analysis capability at FAA. Together, the new policy and guidance emphasize mission analyses and satisfy the recommendation.

    Recommendation: In order to identify and assess FAA acquisition needs, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to revise FAA guidance on mission need statements to emphasize mission analysis as the starting point for acquisitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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