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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) plans to modernize its air traffic control computer system. GAO noted that FAA plans to acquire the Advanced Automation System (AAS) to: (1) increase controller productivity; (2) reduce its operating costs; (3) save fuel and passenger time; and (4) replace its aging air traffic control computer systems. GAO also noted that the FAA proposal for implementing AAS: (1) involved closing 180 terminal control facilities and moving their functions to 23 large centers; (2) did not fully analyze or properly compare a range of alternatives for AAS program elements; (3) had disadvantages in terms of increased vulnerability to loss of services in the event of catastrophe, personnel relocation problems, and the need for additional controllers during transitions from old to new facilities; and (4) used an unsound methodology to estimate AAS benefits. In addition, GAO noted that an alternative proposal involving replacement of equipment and new workstations: (1) reduced costs by over $750 million; and (2) alleviated many of the FAA proposal disadvantages. GAO believes that FAA should: (1) not award the multi-billion dollar AAS contract until it has identified the amount and types of equipment necessary for a non-consolidation approach; and (2) fully analyze other terminal control facility alternatives.

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