Congress's formation of the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), both within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), represent the latest efforts to address the monumental challenges of modernizing the national airspace system (NAS) during the first quarter of the twenty-first century. For more than two decades, FAA has been working to modernize the air traffic control (ATC) system, but projects have repeatedly missed cost, schedule, and performance targets. Consequently, ATC modernization has been on GAO's list of high-risk federal programs since 1995. The ATO's focus is on a rolling 10- year outlook to operate and modernize the NAS. By contrast, the JPDO's vision is longer term, focused on coordinating the research efforts of diverse federal agencies to achieve a common goal of meeting potential air traffic demands in 2025. This statement discusses (1) GAO's assessment of the ATO's efforts to date in addressing some of the key challenges for the ATC modernization program and (2) challenges that lie ahead for the ATO and options that it could consider in addressing the needs of the NAS over the next decade, as well as longer-term needs defined by the JPDO.
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