National Airspace System:

Comprehensive FAA Plan for Global Positioning System Is Needed

RCED-95-26: Published: May 10, 1995. Publicly Released: May 17, 1995.

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Gerald Dillingham, Ph.D.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) augmentation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for use in civil aviation navigation, focusing on whether FAA: (1) will have sufficient time under its new milestones to augment GPS; and (2) has taken appropriate actions to better manage its GPS-related efforts.

GAO found that: (1) although FAA has met all of its milestones to date, its future milestones involve more complex and difficult tasks; (2) FAA may not have enough time to develop and implement its wide area system augmentation by 1997, although civil aircraft are expected to use the augmented GPS without relying on other navigation aids for backup; (3) FAA estimates that system software development alone may take 24 to 28 months; (4) implementation of the wide area system may be delayed by factors beyond FAA control, such as the launching of commercial satellites needed to support the system; (5) in 1994, FAA strengthened its GPS management by integrating its GPS activities, securing the necessary funding to accelerate the wide area system's development, and issuing plans for developing and implementing augmentation systems and transitioning to GPS; and (6) the FAA GPS plans are not comprehensive, since they omit a schedule for implementing the local area system, cost estimates for the local and wide area systems, and the probabilities of meeting schedule and cost estimates.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency completed a GPS Transition Plan in July 1996. In addition, in January 1998, FAA completed work on an integrated GPS augmentation systems baseline investment plan. The plan includes schedule and cost estimates for developing and implementing the wide and local area augmentation systems and probability information on whether cost estimates will be met.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to prepare a comprehensive plan for augmenting GPS and transitioning to it and to update this plan regularly. The plan should include, among other things, schedule and cost estimates for developing and implementing the wide and local area augmentation systems as well as information on the probability that FAA will meet these estimates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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