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Highlights

Since 1981, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working to modernize its aging air traffic control (ATC) system. Individual projects have suffered cost increases, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls of large proportions, leading GAO to designate the program a high-risk information technology initiative in 1995. Because the program remains a high risk initiative, GAO was requested to assess FAA's progress in several information technology management areas. This report, one in a series responding to that request, has two objectives: (1) to evaluate FAA's capabilities for developing and acquiring software and systems on its ATC modernization program and (2) to assess the actions FAA has under way to improve these capabilities.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. Given the importance of software-intensive systems to FAA's air traffic control modernization program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the four projects that we appraised take action to fully implement the practices that we identified as not implemented or partially implemented.
Closed - Implemented
FAA concurred with this recommendation and took action to implement the practices that we had identified as not implemented or partially implemented. GAO reassessed the systems and found that all of the practices that were identified as not implemented or partially implemented have now been implemented.
Department of Transportation 2. Given the importance of software-intensive systems to FAA's air traffic control modernization program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the new Air Traffic Organization establish a policy requiring organizations and project teams to implement iCMM or equivalent process improvement initiatives.
Closed - Implemented
FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation and has implemented it. After a review of existing policies, FAA's ATO organization affirmed the agency's acquisition management system policy, which states that project teams should use a process improvements model, such as the iCMM. FAA also revised its investment review board processes to require that projects have process improvement activities in place before being approved for funding.
Department of Transportation 3. Given the importance of software-intensive systems to FAA's air traffic control modernization program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the new Air Traffic Organization establish a plan for implementing iCMM or equivalent process improvement initiatives throughout the organization. This plan should specify a core set of process areas for all projects, clear criteria for when appraisals are warranted, and measurable goals and time frames.
Closed - Implemented
FAA concurred with this recommendation and established a plan for implementing process improvement initiatives on major system acquisition efforts throughout the air traffic organization. The plan identifies core process areas for improvement, plans for assessing compliance, measurable goals, and timeframes.
Department of Transportation 4. Given the importance of software-intensive systems to FAA's air traffic control modernization program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the Chief Information Officer's process improvement office, in consultation with the Air Traffic Organization, develop a strategy for overseeing all air traffic projects' progress to successive levels of maturity; this strategy should specify measurable goals and time frames.
Closed - Implemented
FAA concurred with this recommendation and the Administrator, in conjunction with the Chief Information Officer(CIO) and other executives from the air traffic organization, committed to a plan for institutionalizing process improvements across the air traffic organization. The plan includes assessing compliance with process improvement initiatives and specifies measurable goals and timeframes.
Department of Transportation 5. Given the importance of software-intensive systems to FAA's air traffic control modernization program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that to enforce process improvement initiatives, FAA investment decision makers take a project's capability level in core process areas into consideration before approving new investments in the project.
Closed - Implemented
FAA program officials concurred with this recommendation and reported that they have worked with FAA's investment review board (called the Joint Resources Council) to include additional language in the Final Investment Decision Briefing Template. The template states that the Joint Resource Council will approve only those investments that have process improvement plans in place. The FAA Acquisition Management System policy requires projects to undergo a Final Investment Decision by the Joint Resources Council before funding is released.

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