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In 1981, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began a program to modernize the national airspace system and a primary component, the air traffic control (ATC) system. The ATC component of this program, which is designed to replace aging equipment and accommodate predicted growth in air traffic, has had difficulty for more than two decades in meeting cost, schedule, and performance targets. The performance-based Air Traffic Organization (ATO) was created in February 2004 to improve the management of the modernization effort. On October 7, 2004, GAO hosted a panel to discuss attempts to address the ATC modernization program's persistent problems. Participants discussed the factors that they believed have affected FAA's ability to acquire new ATC systems. Participants also identified steps that FAA's ATO could take in the short term to address these factors, as well as longer term steps that could be taken to improve the modernization program's chances of success and help the ATO achieve its mission. The participants included domestic and foreign aviation experts from industry, government, private think tanks, and academia. They are recognized for their expertise in aviation safety, economics, and engineering; transportation research and policy; and government and private-sector management.

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