Federal Aviation Administration:

Issues Concerning the Reauthorization of Aviation Programs

T-RCED-99-68: Published: Jan 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1999.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the issues being considered in the proposed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) aviation programs, focusing on: (1) air traffic control modernization program; (2) efforts to make its computer systems ready for the year 2000; (3) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding; (4) aviation safety and security measures; and (5) efforts to enhance aviation competition.

GAO noted that: (1) provisions in the draft legislation to enhance the competitiveness of the aviation industry address concerns GAO has raised about operating barriers at airports and airline marketing practices that have limited the full potential benefits of deregulation; (2) airline deregulation has led to lower airfares and better service for most air travelers, largely because of increased competition spurred by the entry of new airlines into the industry and established carriers into new markets; (3) some communities have not shared these benefits and have experienced higher air fares or less convenient service since deregulation; (4) by establishing programs to promote air service in various communities, the draft legislation would assist communities in developing and improving their air service; (5) the reporting requirements that the proposed legislation would place on FAA's air traffic control modernization program would aid in continued congressional oversight of this problem-ridden program; (6) over the past 17 years, FAA's multibillion-dollar program to modernize aging air traffic control systems has experienced cost overruns, schedule slippages, and performance problems of large proportions; (7) the proposed legislation calls for FAA to report every 3 months on the problems associated with making its computer systems ready for the year 2000; (8) the implications of FAA's not meeting the year 2000 deadline are enormous and could affect hundreds of thousands of people through customers' inconvenience, increased airline costs, grounded or delayed flights, or degraded levels of safety; (9) provisions to reauthorize AIP would help to address critical funding shortfalls for airport development by expanding FAA's innovative pilot projects and providing small airports with more flexibility in funding AIP projects; (10) the proposed legislation would help to improve FAA's information on airfield pavement quality, which should improve decisions about funding these costly improvements; and (11) the legislation's proposals to enhance aviation safety and security encompass areas in which GAO has identified a continuing need for improvements.