Air Traffic Control:

Status of FAA's Modernization Program

RCED-95-175FS: Published: May 26, 1995. Publicly Released: May 26, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) air traffic control (ATC) system modernization efforts, focusing on: (1) projects funded through the FAA facilities and equipment (F&E) appropriation account under the Capital Investment Plan (CIP); (2) changes in total modernization costs, number of completed projects, and trends for unobligated funds; and (3) cost and schedule estimates for the 15 major projects that account for over 40 percent of the FAA fiscal year (FY) 1996 F&E budget request.

GAO found that: (1) FAA estimates that ATC modernization costs will total $37.3 billion from FY 1982 through FY 2003, a $1.5 billion decrease from the 1994 estimate; (2) although Congress has appropriated $19.8 billion through FY 1995 for ATC modernization, FAA expects lower funding levels and will have to extend development schedules beyond FY 2003 or terminate some projects; (3) 18 of the current 158 projects under CIP will extend beyond FY 2003 and cost an additional $842 million; (4) FAA has completed 64 projects at a cost of $3.8 billion and has decreased its unobligated F&E balance for the second straight year, partly due to appropriation expirations and rescissions; (5) FAA has added 5 new projects to CIP at a cost of $232 million; (6) estimated F&E costs for 11 of the 15 major project have increased by $219 million in the past year; (7) FAA has made progress in fielding equipment for some of its projects, but implementation schedules for 9 projects have slipped by an average of 5 years; (8) because of substantial cost increases and schedule slippages, FAA has restructured its Advanced Automation System (AAS) into 3 more manageable projects that are expected to cost less, but these projects will provide lesser capabilities; and (9) although FAA has strengthened its control of the restructured AAS, it continues to experience software problems.