Air Traffic Control:

Evolution and Status of FAA's Automation Program

T-RCED/AIMD-98-85: Published: Mar 5, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) air traffic control (ATC) automation program, focusing on: (1) how the automation program has evolved from the initial program to the current one; (2) to what extent FAA has had to implement costly interim projects and to sustain the older equipment; and (3) whether the ongoing acquisitions are achieving their cost and schedule goals.

GAO noted that: (1) in the 1994 restructuring, FAA cancelled segments of its initial automation program, scaled back others, and ordered the development of less costly alternatives; (2) FAA still plans to replace the aging equipment that is increasingly difficult to maintain and to provide a basis for adding new capabilities at a later date; (3) one of the cancelled segments from the initial program would have addressed hardware maintenance problems that are now emerging with the mainframe computer; (4) the agency expects to incur costs of about $160 million during fiscal years 1998 and 1999 to replace the mainframe computer hardware; (5) as a result of the longstanding history of schedule delays in the automation program, FAA has added four interim projects--costing about $655 million--to sustain and enhance current automated equipment; (6) almost all of FAA's facilities that control air traffic at lower altitudes near airports will be upgraded through these interim projects; (7) FAA has had mixed results in achieving its cost and schedule goals for the two major ongoing acquisitions in its restructured automation program; (8) the Display System Replacement is within budget and on schedule; and (9) however, the Standard Terminal Automated Replacement System will likely have schedule delays of at least 6 months largely because software development has taken longer than expected and the agency and the contractor lack sufficient time to perform needed testing.