Air Traffic Control:

Status of FAA's Implementation of the Display System Replacement Project

T-RCED-00-19: Published: Oct 11, 1999. Publicly Released: Oct 11, 1999.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the status of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) implementation of the Display System Replacement (DSR) project, focusing on: (1) the status of FAA's overall modernization program; (2) FAA's progress in implementing DSR, with particular emphasis on events surrounding Boston's implementation; and (3) opportunities for continued success by FAA in completing its modernization projects.

GAO noted that: (1) FAA's revised approach to modernization--acquiring new systems by using a more incremental approach as opposed to its prior practice of tackling large, complex projects all at once--appears to be paying dividends; (2) the DSR project, which evolved from FAA's restructuring of the Advanced Automation System, reflects this incremental approach; (3) with DSR, FAA has concentrated on replacing the controllers' workstations and other supporting equipment and plans to add new functions and capabilities later; (4) with the former project, FAA had attempted to do both--replace old equipment and add new functions concurrently; (5) another aspect of the new modernization approach involves working actively with the aviation community to make decisions more collaboratively, as opposed to unilaterally making decisions about air traffic control modernization; (6) FAA has achieved a more successful implementation of DSR than other aspects of its modernization program; (7) FAA developed DSR within its estimated cost and schedule milestones; (8) nationwide, DSR has been delivered to all of the facilities that were scheduled to receive it, and FAA is in various stages of testing and using it; (9) one of these facilities (Boston) is expected to begin using DSR in a limited capacity in late October and should begin full operations in January 2000; (10) one lesson learned from the earlier implementation of DSR at en route facilities is that the transition of new equipment, coupled with other factors, had an impact on FAA's delivery of air traffic services; (11) FAA has an opportunity to replicate its success with DSR on other modernization projects that are underway and with future efforts; (12) however, it will be very important for FAA to continue to incorporate the factors contributing to DSR's success, namely: (a) using an incremental approach to modernization; (b) collaborating with internal users and with external users; and (c) implementing recommendations to improve the modernization program; (13) FAA has begun to take actions to develop a complete systems architecture to guide modernization, improve its investment management approach, develop mature software acquisition capabilities, and change its organizational culture; and (14) as FAA embarks on full implementation of DSR and other planned equipment upgrades to improve safety and efficiency, it will be important for the agency to continue to monitor efficiency measures to determine if the changes that have been implemented are having the intended effect of minimizing impacts on service.