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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to modernize and upgrade its automated systems. GAO found that: (1) FAA plans to develop a flexible and reliable Voice Switching and Control System (VSCS) at its 23 major air traffic control facilities; (2) VSCS is expected to provide communications for the controller work stations, serving up to 430 positions at each center; (3) FAA cost estimates for the system's development and implementation increased to about $730 million, because it did not consider relevant costs and contractors underestimated the system's requirements; (4) FAA deferred VSCS prototype testing until after contract award because of delays resulting from technical difficulties and unanticipated changes; and (5) limited prototype testing was inadequate to ensure that the system met FAA needs. GAO also found that: (1) the FAA Computer Resources Nucleus Project (CORN) will provide centralized, general-purpose data processing services through a single fee-for-service contract; (2) FAA estimates for CORN increased from $148 million to $1.5 billion due to the enlarged system scope; (3) the CORN contract will provide technical support and operations and maintenance services; and (4) FAA will operate its in-house system until CORN conversion is completed, at an estimated annual cost of $46 million.

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