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Highlights

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) multibillion-dollar effort to modernize the nation's air traffic control (ATC) system has resulted in cost, schedule, and performance shortfalls for over two decades and has been on GAO's list of high-risk federal programs since 1995. According to FAA, performance shortfalls were due, in part, to restrictions imposed by federal acquisition and personnel regulations. In response, Congress granted FAA exemptions in 1995 and directed it to develop a new acquisition management system. In this report, GAO compared FAA's AMS with (1) the FAR and (2) commercial best practices for major acquisitions, and (3) examined FAA's implementation of AMS and its progress in resolving problems with major acquisitions.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation To reduce the risk of persistent cost and schedule shortfalls in major ATC system acquisition programs, to improve the quality of the ATC systems that are deployed, and to deliver new capability to the National Airspace System faster, the Secretary of Transportation should advise the FAA Administrator to modify AMS to specify that requirements be more clearly defined for major ATC systems, including providing more detailed guidance on setting clear, objective, and measurable requirements that reflect customers' needs, before making large investments of agency resources.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The AMS was modified in December 2004 to require the development of documents that staff must use prior to making investment decisions. In addition, templates that stipulate that top level functional and performance requirements that reflect the needs of the customer were added to the program's guidance and are required to be used by staff before a final investment decision is made.
Department of Transportation To reduce the risk of persistent cost and schedule shortfalls in major ATC system acquisition programs, to improve the quality of the ATC systems that are deployed, and to deliver new capability to the National Airspace System faster, the Secretary of Transportation should advise the FAA Administrator to establish a strategy for identifying and measuring all additional development needed for complex software (e.g., commercial-off-the-shelf or nondevelopmental items) used for major ATC systems.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

AMS was modified in December 2004 to require, among other things, the development of the preliminary program document for the investment analysis readiness decision and the initial investment decision, etc. Templates have also been developed and inserted in the guidance portion of the FAA Acquisition System Tool.
Department of Transportation To reduce the risk of persistent cost and schedule shortfalls in major ATC system acquisition programs, to improve the quality of the ATC systems that are deployed, and to deliver new capability to the National Airspace System faster, the Secretary of Transportation should advise the FAA Administrator to develop explicit written criteria for the key decision points called for under best practices, including the capture of specific design and manufacturing knowledge.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

FAA modified the AMS guidance for the FAA Acquisition System Tool (FAST) by instituting on-site integration testing at FAA facilities, operational capability tests and demonstrations, etc., so that any modification to hardware and software can be determined before source selection.
Department of Transportation To reduce the risk of persistent cost and schedule shortfalls in major ATC system acquisition programs, to improve the quality of the ATC systems that are deployed, and to deliver new capability to the National Airspace System faster, the Secretary of Transportation should advise the FAA Administrator to require corporate executive-level decisions at these key decision points (before an acquisition moves from integration to demonstration and, again, before it moves to production).
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

First set of service level reviews for most of Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Service Units' National Airspace System (NAS) acquisitions and operation systems has been completed, and the agency has planned reviews for the remaining systems. FAA plans to complete an assessment of the entire review process by mid-June 2006, and update the service level review process after that date.
Department of Transportation In addition, to assure FAA that the training framework it has adopted for the ATO's acquisition workforce is improving the knowledge base of this workforce as intended, the Secretary of Transportation should advise the FAA Administrator to develop performance criteria to comprehensively evaluate the framework's effectiveness.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

In response to GAO's recommendations, FAA (1) has established a senior-level, acquisition workforce council in ATO to oversee acquisition-related activities; (2) will monitor OMB's efforts to develop core, standardized acquisition workforce competencies and training programs for the executive branch, and use OMB Policy Letter of April 15, 2005 for guidance on managing acquisition workforce; (3) will continue to use industry-standard competency certification for managers of major acquisition programs and related disciplines; (4) will use subject matter experts to assess training and develop career path guidance; and (5) will implement an agency-wide training program on earned value management in alignment with OMB requirements.

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