The transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS)--a system intended to safely accommodate a possible tripling of air traffic by 2025--will become one of the federal government's most comprehensive and technically complex undertakings, and a preliminary estimate indicates it will also be expensive. However, the current approach to managing air transportation is becoming increasingly inefficient and operationally obsolete. In 2003, Congress authorized the creation of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) to coordinate the efforts of several federal partner agencies--including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in which JPDO is housed--to plan for and develop NGATS. GAO's testimony addresses (1) the current estimate and uncertainties over NGATS costs, (2) advantages and concerns that stakeholders have raised about the current approach to collecting revenues from national airspace users to fund FAA, (3) the advantages and disadvantages of adopting alternative funding options for FAA, and (4) the advantages and disadvantages of authorizing FAA to use debt financing for capital projects. This testimony is based in part on GAO's analysis of FAA and JPDO documents and interviews with officials of those two agencies.
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