Airport Development:

Improvement Needed in Federal Planning

T-RCED-92-30: Published: Feb 19, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1992.

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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), which is a performance measurement system FAA uses to identify future financial obligations of the Airport and Airway Trust Funds, focusing on changes to ensure the most advantageous use of those funds. GAO noted that: (1) since NPIAS lacks measurable national goals, it provides limited direction for funding airport improvement projects; (2) NPIAS includes unranked individual airport improvement proposals that include unrealistic expenses and improvement schedules; and (3) although FAA may not currently be able to precisely measure performance, it should continue searching for ways to compare airport investment costs to the benefits achieved. GAO believes that a successful national airport plan should include: (1) specific planning goals to give direction and meaning to airport development and form a basis for later feedback; (2) credible proposals for individual airport improvements, which can be compared consistently with planning goals established for the national system; and (3) a feedback mechanism to measure the airport system's performance against goals or expected benefits. GAO also believes that accurate performance measures will: (1) help Congress and FAA review airport improvement projects; (2) provide Congress with a basis for considering changes in the program's funding structure; and (3) enable FAA to target resources from the trust fund to areas where increased funding is needed.

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