Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                             Testimony
                                Before the Subcommittee on Aviation,
                                Committee on Transportation and
                                Infrastructure, House of Representatives

                                NEXT GENERATION AIR
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

                                FAA Faces Implementation
                                Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D.
                                Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues

                                              September 12, 2012

                                              NEXT GENERATION AIR TRANSPORTATION
                                              FAA Faces Implementation Challenges
Highlights of GAO-12-1011T, a testimony to
the Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, House of

Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
To prepare for forecasted air traffic         Delivering and demonstrating the Next Generation Air Transportation
growth, FAA is planning for and               System’s (NextGen) benefits: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must
implementing NextGen in partnership           deliver capabilities that provide aircraft operators with a return on their
with other federal agencies and the           investments in NextGen avionics to convince operators to continue making
aviation industry. NextGen is a               equipment investments. However, operators have expressed concerns that FAA
complex undertaking that requires             has not produced the navigational procedures needed to achieve benefits from
acquiring new integrated air traffic          existing avionics, such as reduced fuel burn and flight time. To help produce
control systems; developing new flight        more beneficial procedures, FAA is, among other things, involving air traffic
procedures, standards, and
                                              controllers and other stakeholders in the design of new procedures.
regulations; and creating and
maintaining supporting infrastructure to
create a more automated aircraft-
                                              Encouraging acquisition of NextGen equipage: For some technologies,
centered, satellite-based air                 realizing NextGen benefits requires a critical mass of properly equipped aircraft.
transportation system. GAO has made           Reaching that critical mass is a significant challenge because the first aircraft
recommendations to address delays in          operators to purchase and install NextGen avionics will not obtain a return on
NextGen’s acquisitions, improve FAA’s         their investment until many other operators are similarly equipped. FAA has
processes, and focus on accountability        begun to solicit industry input about how to design and implement a public-
and performance, which FAA is                 private financing program for equipment but has yet to make decisions about
implementing.                                 how to incentivize the airline operators’ transition to NextGen.

This statement discusses five key             Maintaining timely delivery of key systems: NextGen has significantly
challenges that GAO and others have           increased the number, cost, and complexity of FAA’s acquisition programs, which
previously identified that affect             must remain on time and within budget, particularly given current budget
NextGen implementation, as well as            constraints and the interdependencies of many NextGen-related acquisitions.
steps FAA has taken to address these          While these acquisitions are generally proceeding on time and within budget,
challenges. These challenges are              previous challenges with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM)
(1) delivering and demonstrating              program—a critical program for NextGen—illustrate how delays can increase the
NextGen’s near-term benefits;                 costs and schedules of other acquisitions as well as the maintenance costs of the
(2) developing a cost-effective
                                              system that is meant to be replaced. Overall, NextGen implementation will be
mechanism to encourage operators to
                                              affected by how well FAA manages program interdependencies.
equip with NextGen technologies;
(3) maintaining timely delivery of
acquisitions; (4) clearly defining            Clearly defining NextGen leadership roles and responsibilities: Although
NextGen leadership roles and                  FAA has made organizational changes to increase visibility and accountability for
responsibilities; and (5) balancing the       NextGen, it has not made management changes called for by the FAA
needs of the current radar-based              Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. According to FAA, those changes will not
systems and NextGen systems                   occur until a permanent FAA Administrator is in place. Further, FAA has not
through the transition. This statement        clearly defined the relationships among the Deputy Administrator (responsible for
is based on GAO’s previous reports            NextGen implementation and also the current Acting Administrator); the new
and testimonies, ongoing work for the         Chief NextGen Officer position; and the Director of the Joint Planning and
committee, and updates on FAA’s               Development Office (responsible for NextGen planning and coordination).
responses to these challenges through
a review of FAA documents and                 Managing the transition to the NextGen system: Particularly in light of
interviews with FAA officials.                constrained budget resources, FAA will have to balance its priorities to help
                                              ensure that NextGen implementation stays on course while sustaining the current
                                              legacy infrastructure that will continue to be the core of the national airspace
                                              system for a number of years. For example, while FAA has an initial plan to
View GAO-12-1011T. For more information,
contact Gerald L. Dillingham at (202) 512-
                                              consolidate facilities, the agency will need to keep long-term plans in mind so
2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov.                  that it does not invest unnecessarily in facilities that may not be needed for
                                                                                      United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman Petri, Ranking Member Costello, and Members of the

I appreciate the opportunity to testify today on progress toward
implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that, by 2025, the
annual number of airline passengers in the United States will increase
from about 700 million to about 1 billion per year and that the daily
number of flights will increase from about 80,000 to more than 95,000. If
FAA’s predictions hold true, today’s air transportation system will be
strained under such demands, especially on some routes to and from hub
airports and major cities. Accordingly, FAA, other federal agencies, and
aviation industry stakeholders have worked in partnership to develop a
plan for NextGen. 1 NextGen is an enormously complex undertaking that
requires acquiring new integrated air traffic control systems; developing
new flight procedures, standards, and regulations; and creating and
maintaining supporting infrastructure to create a modern air transportation
system that relies on satellite-based surveillance and navigation and
network-centric operations. 2 NextGen is intended to increase air
transportation system efficiency and capacity while maintaining its safety.

The initial planning for NextGen, starting with Vision 100 3 in 2003,
focused on having NextGen in place by 2025. The improvements required
to realize the full benefits of NextGen are numerous and involve many
offices within FAA. In many cases, these improvements also depend on
substantial investment and buy-in from aircraft operators. Recently, FAA
has emphasized improvements that can be implemented through 2018 4

 NextGen was designed as an interagency effort to leverage various agencies’ expertise
and funding to advance NextGen while avoiding duplication. In addition to FAA, federal
partner agencies include the Departments of Commerce (particularly its National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration), Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation; the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the White House Office of Science
and Technology Policy.
 Network-centric operations involve the instant sharing of information and data among
users, systems, and networks. These operations use infrastructure and information
services to provide the critical exchange of digital information for air-to-air and air-to-
ground applications as well as applications involving satellite-based information sources.
 Vision 100—Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, Pub. L. No. 108-176, §§ 709-710,
117 Stat. 2490, 2582-2585 (2003).
 According to FAA, midterm implementation for NextGen has shifted from 2018 to 2020.

Page 1                                                                        GAO-12-1011T
as a means to respond to industry skepticism about FAA’s ability to
implement NextGen, build support for long-term NextGen investments,
and more immediately address inefficiencies and delays in the current air
traffic control system. 5 In past reports, we have made a number of
recommendations to FAA to address delays in NextGen’s development
and acquisitions, improve FAA’s processes, and focus on accountability
and performance. Over the last 2 years, FAA has taken several steps and
instituted a number of changes to address these issues.

My statement highlights five key challenges that we and others have
previously identified that affect NextGen’s implementation, as well as
steps FAA has taken to address these challenges. These challenges are

•   delivering and demonstrating NextGen’s near-term benefits;
•   developing a cost-effective mechanism to encourage operators to
    equip with NextGen technologies;
•   maintaining timely delivery of acquisitions;
•   clearly defining NextGen leadership roles and responsibilities; and
•   balancing the needs of the current radar-based system as well as the
    NextGen system through the transition.

 FAA requested that RTCA—a private, not-for-profit corporation that develops consensus-
based recommendations on communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic
management system issues—create a NextGen Midterm Implementation Task Force,
composed of industry stakeholders, to reach consensus within the aviation community on
the operational improvements that can be implemented between now and 2018. The task
force provided recommendations to FAA in September 2009.

Page 2                                                                    GAO-12-1011T
                        This statement is based primarily on our previous reports and
                        testimonies 6 and on ongoing work for this subcommittee that includes
                        challenges associated with near-term NextGen implementation and FAA’s
                        efforts to transition from the current air traffic control system to the
                        NextGen system. We updated information on FAA’s responses to the five
                        challenges that we discuss through a review of FAA documents and
                        interviews with FAA officials. The GAO reports cited in this statement
                        contain more detailed explanations of the methods used to conduct our
                        work. We conducted all of our work in accordance with generally
                        accepted government auditing standards.

FAA Is Taking Steps
to Address Challenges
in Delivering and
NextGen’s Benefits
Delivering NextGen      FAA must deliver systems, procedures, and capabilities that provide
Benefits                operators with a return on their investments in NextGen avionics in order
                        to convince operators to continue making such equipment investments.
                        For example, a large percentage of the current fleet is equipped to fly
                        more precise performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures, such as
                        following precise routes that use the Global Positioning System or glide

                         GAO, Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Has Made Some Progress in
                        Implementation, but Delays Threaten to Impact Costs and Benefits, GAO-12-141T
                        (Washington, D.C. Oct. 5, 2012); Air Traffic Control Modernization: Management
                        Challenges Associated with Program Costs and Schedules Could Hinder Implementation,
                        GAO-12-223 (Washington, D.C. Feb. 16, 2012); Aviation and the Environment:
                        Systematically Addressing Environmental Impacts and Community Concerns Can Help
                        Airports Reduce Project Delays, GAO-10-50 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 13, 2010); NextGen
                        Air Transportation System: FAA’s Metrics Can Be Used to Report on Status of Individual
                        Programs, but Not of Overall NextGen Implementation or Outcomes, GAO-10-629,
                        (Washington, D.C.: July 27, 2010); Next Generation Air Transportation System:
                        Challenges with Partner Agency and FAA Coordination Continue, and Efforts to Integrate
                        Near-, Mid-, and Long-term Activities are Ongoing, GAO-10-649T (Washington, D.C.: Apr.
                        21, 2010); Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Challenges in
                        Responding to Task Force Recommendations, GAO-10-188T (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 28,
                        2009); and Next Generation Air Transportation System: Issues Associated with Midterm
                        Implementation of Capabilities and Full System Transformation, GAO-09-481T
                        (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 25, 2009).

                        Page 3                                                                   GAO-12-1011T
descent paths, which can save the operators money through reduced fuel
burn and flight time. 7 However, aircraft operators have expressed
concerns that FAA has not produced the most useful or beneficial PBN
routes and procedures to date. As a means to leverage existing
technology, provide immediate benefit to the industry, and in response to
the RTCA Midterm Implementation Task Force’s (Task Force)
recommendations, FAA began an initiative to better use PBN procedures
to resolve airspace problems in and provide benefits to areas around
busy airports, known as “metroplexes.” This initiative, the Optimization of
Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (Metroplex), is under way in
eight metropolitan areas across the country and planning is under way for
other areas (see fig. 1). 8

 The term procedures refers to the routes flown by aircraft and the rules governing those
routes, such as required speeds and altitudes.
 The eight current Metroplex sites include: D.C.; North Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina;
Northern California; Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Southern California; and
South/Central Florida. Five additional sites are planned to begin in 2012 or 2013: Phoenix,
Arizona; Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; Detroit, Michigan; and Boston,

Page 4                                                                       GAO-12-1011T
Figure 1: Metroplex Sites as of July 2012

                                             The Operational Evolution Partnership (OEP) airports are 35 of the busiest commercial U.S. airports.
                                            Identified in 2000 based on lists from FAA and Congress, as well as a study on the most congested
                                            U.S. airports, these airports serve major metropolitan areas and also serve as hubs for airline

                                            FAA is working to design its Metroplex and other PBN initiatives to avoid
                                            some of the challenges that have limited the use and, in turn, potential
                                            benefits of existing PBN procedures. For example, FAA has found that
                                            some PBN procedures developed without air traffic controllers’
                                            involvement have been used infrequently, if at all, because of problems
                                            with the procedure design or other challenges. In response, FAA has
                                            worked to include stakeholders, such as air traffic controllers and airlines,
                                            in the study and design of new PBN procedures. For example, FAA

                                            Page 5                                                                               GAO-12-1011T
included airlines and local air traffic controllers in the design of PBN
procedures under the Metroplex and Greener Skies over Seattle
initiatives. 9 This inclusion, according to stakeholders involved, should help
to ensure that the new PBN procedures can be used by local controllers
and produce quantifiable benefits to aircraft operators. Greener Skies
also formally involved local airports in the PBN procedure development
process to help avoid adverse environmental—largely noise-related—
community impacts. As we have previously reported, effective outreach to
affected stakeholders can help anticipate and address potential
community concerns—particularly with regard to noise. 10 If not
addressed, these concerns can delay efforts to use airspace more
efficiently. 11

Many of FAA’s near-term improvement efforts have focused on
developing new PBN procedures rather than on other near-term
improvements recommended by the Task Force, such as airborne or
surface traffic-management improvements. Following up on the Task
Force’s work, the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) 12 made
recommendations in May 2012 to help FAA identify and prioritize
improvements—including and in addition to PBN procedures—that could
provide near-term benefits. FAA is assessing the extent to which it can
make these other improvements in later rounds of the Metroplex initiative.

  Greener Skies is a collaborative effort involving FAA, Alaska Airlines, Boeing, and the
Port of Seattle. The effort resulted in new PBN procedures that route flights over local
waterways—rather than over residential areas—and optimized profile descents (OPDs).
OPD procedures use PBN capabilities to enable aircraft to descend from cruise altitude to
final approach using a more efficient, idle glide, thereby eliminating what is referred to as
the “level offs” or “step downs” of a traditional descent, resulting in fuel savings. These
PBN procedures are expected to be implemented in 2013. Alaska Airlines estimates the
Greener Skies procedures will cut fuel consumption by 2.1 million gallons annually, reduce
carbon emissions by 22,000 metric tons, and reduce overflight noise exposure for an
estimated 750,000 people. The effort was begun by Alaska Airlines, Boeing, and the Port
of Seattle in 2008, and FAA assumed leadership of it in 2010.
  The NAC is comprised of aviation stakeholders from the government and industry. The
committee works to develop a common understanding of priorities in the context of overall
NextGen capabilities and implementation constraints, with an emphasis on improvements
through 2018. The committee primarily focuses on implementation issues, including
prioritization criteria at a national level, joint investment priorities, and location and timing
of capability implementation.

Page 6                                                                            GAO-12-1011T
In the meantime, the agency has turned its attention to expanding or
developing some of these improvements—including the air-traffic-
management tools that allow for the sequencing of planes—at some of
the facilities that are the focus of ongoing Metroplex efforts. Generally,
these efforts are still in the planning phase. Figure 2 shows the
complexity of merging or sequencing traffic that is approaching an airport
using PBN procedures, such as precision Required Navigation
Performance (RNP) turns and optimized profile descents (OPD). 13 This
complexity can be mitigated with the use of new airborne traffic
management tools. Given the integrated nature of near-term NextGen
improvements, it will be important for FAA to determine how its Metroplex
initiative and airborne and surface traffic management improvements—as
well as other improvements prioritized by the NAC—will be implemented
and will work together so that the full benefits of these improvements can
be realized.

  PBN includes Area Navigation (RNAV) and RNP. RNAV provides greater flexibility by
reducing the limitations imposed by ground-based navigation systems. RNP is a form of
RNAV that adds monitoring and altering capabilities to guide aircraft more precisely to and
from airports.

Page 7                                                                       GAO-12-1011T
Figure 2: Examples of Integrated Near-Term NextGen Operational Improvements

                                       In addition, although FAA has made progress in developing new PBN
                                       procedures with its Metroplex and other PBN initiatives, much work
                                       remains to be done to improve the overall process for amending and
                                       implementing PBN procedures. According to FAA, the current process for
                                       implementing or amending flight procedures consists of a bundle of
                                       interconnected, overlapping, and sometimes competing processes,
                                       which, on occasion, results in the implementation of low or no-benefit
                                       flight procedures that have to be reworked or amended. Likewise, RTCA
                                       has recommended that FAA address problems with what it has termed
                                       FAA’s inefficient processes for validating and certifying new technologies,
                                       which are critical steps in the process for allowing the use of new
                                       procedures. We have also expressed concerns about the time and
                                       human resources required for the validation and certification processes
                                       and have identified these processes as a significant risk to the timely and
                                       cost-effective implementation of NextGen. To address these challenges,
                                       FAA has undertaken a Navigation Lean (NAV Lean) project to streamline
                                       the implementation process for flight procedures. The agency anticipates

                                       Page 8                                                          GAO-12-1011T
                        this project will be mostly in place by the end of 2015. 14 We have ongoing
                        work for this committee that further explores issues and challenges
                        associated with near-term NextGen implementation.

Demonstrating NextGen   As we have previously reported, FAA should regularly provide
Benefits                stakeholders, interested parties, Congress, and the American people with
                        a clear picture of where NextGen’s implementation stands, and whether
                        the capabilities being implemented are resulting in positive outcomes and
                        improved performance for operators and passengers. 15 We have
                        recommended that FAA develop a timeline and action plan to work with
                        industry and federal partner agencies to develop an agreed-upon list of
                        outcome-based performance metrics, as well as goals for NextGen
                        broadly and specific NextGen improvement areas. In addition, the FAA
                        Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 requires FAA to report on
                        measures of the agency’s progress in implementing NextGen capabilities
                        and operational results. 16 In 2011, the NAC recommended that FAA adopt
                        a set of performance metrics to address operational changes affecting
                        capacity, efficiency, predictability, and access. In addition, the NAC has
                        continued to work on outcome-based metrics to inform the public about
                        the overall status of NextGen implementation and the program’s
                        contribution to national aviation policy goals. 17 To date, FAA has
                        established metrics for five of its key performance areas—capacity,
                        efficiency, predictability, environment, and safety—but metrics for the
                        three other key performance areas—access, equity, and flexibility—are
                        still preliminary. FAA has also set performance goals for NextGen through
                        2018, including goals to improve the throughput of air traffic at key
                        airports by 12 percent over 2009 levels in order to reduce delays by 27

                          FAA’s NAV Lean project is an effort to streamline all policies and processes used to
                        implemented instrument flight procedures, which includes PBN procedures. There are 21
                        recommendations in the final NAV Lean report, and the last of these will be implemented
                        in 2017. See FAA, Navigation (NAV) Procedures Project Final Report (Washington, D.C.:
                        September 2010).
                         Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 214, 126 Stat. 11, 50-51 (2012).
                          In May 2012, the NAC forwarded preliminary recommendations for high-level
                        performance metrics to FAA. The NAC will formally address the recommendations in
                        October 2012.

                        Page 9                                                                    GAO-12-1011T
                       percent from 2009 levels, and achieve a 5 percent reduction in average
                       taxi-time at key airports. 18

                       Developing metrics and NextGen performance goals are positive steps,
                       but much work remains, including finalizing agency targets for specific
                       improvement areas and making a link between NextGen performance
                       goals and metrics and NextGen improvements. For example, public
                       information about FAA’s near-term plans for implementing additional
                       capabilities lacks specifics about the timing and locations of
                       implementation. According to RTCA, a lack of published information with
                       specific implementation dates and locations for NextGen capabilities is an
                       obstacle to incentivizing airlines to equip their aircraft with additional
                       NextGen avionics. Without a clearer picture of the return on investment—
                       and the progress being made—aircraft operators may be hesitant to
                       make business and operational decisions necessary to fully realize
                       NextGen benefits. Measuring performance of near-term NextGen
                       improvements will be critical for FAA management and stakeholders to
                       assess various impacts, make investment decisions, and monitor
                       NextGen progress. We will report on this issue in more detail as part of
                       our ongoing near-term NextGen implementation work for this committee.

                       While some operational improvements can be made with existing aircraft
FAA Is Working to      equipment, realizing more significant NextGen benefits requires a critical
Identify and Develop   mass of properly equipped aircraft. Reaching that critical mass is a
                       significant challenge because the first aircraft operators to purchase and
a Cost-effective       install NextGen-capable technologies will not obtain a return on the
Mechanism to           investment until many other operators are similarly equipped. FAA
                       estimates that NextGen avionics needed on aircraft to realize significant
Encourage Operators    midterm NextGen capabilities will cost private operators about $5 billion
to Equip with          to $7 billion through 2020. For example, according to the RTCA, it would
NextGen                cost from $150,000 to $650,000 to equip a regional jet with an RNP
                       package, which is one of the technologies that allows for precision
Technologies           approaches. 19

                        The goals include improvements from the implementation of NextGen technologies, as
                       well as other infrastructure improvements, such as new or improved runways.
                        See RTCA, NextGen Equipage: User Business Case Gaps, A Report of the NextGen
                       Advisory Committee in Response to Tasking from the FAA, September 2011.

                       Page 10                                                                GAO-12-1011T
                        The FAA Modernization and Reform Act authorized the creation of a
                        program to facilitate public-private financing, such as loan guarantees and
                        other credit assistance tools, for equipping general aviation and
                        commercial aircraft with NextGen technologies. 20 According to FAA, the
                        goal for an equipage program would be to encourage deployment of
                        NextGen-capable aircraft sooner than would have occurred without such
                        funding assistance in place. FAA is soliciting industry input about how to
                        design and implement such a program but has yet to decide on how to
                        incentivize this transition. Although authorized, no funding has been
                        appropriated to establish a public-private financing program. According to
                        FAA, it is working to understand what options exist for establishing a
                        program even if it receives no appropriations toward the program.

                        NextGen has significantly increased the number, cost, and complexity of
FAA Faces Challenges    FAA’s acquisition programs, and it is imperative that these programs
in Maintaining Timely   remain on time and within budget, particularly given current budget
                        constraints and the interdependencies of many NextGen-acquisitions. In
Delivery of Key         February 2012, we reported that most of the key NextGen-related
Acquisitions            acquisition programs were generally proceeding on time and on budget. 21
                        See appendix I for the current cost and schedule performance of select
                        baselined NextGen and related acquisition programs. However, delays
                        with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program—a critical
                        program for NextGen—illustrate how delays can affect overall acquisition
                        and maintenance costs as well as time frames for other programs. As we
                        previously reported, ERAM’s schedule delays and cost increase of $330
                        million over 4 years were associated with

                        •     unanticipated risks associated with operational complexities at the
                              selected sites,

                           Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 221, 126 Stat., 54. This act also requires FAA to identify options
                        to encourage the equipage of aircraft with NextGen technologies, including a policy that
                        gives priority to aircraft equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-
                        B) technology and the costs and benefits of each option. Id., § 222, 126 Stat., 54-55. The
                        NAC has identified the specific avionics required to achieve NextGen midterm capability
                        goals, as well as the types of operational benefits that would be necessary to incentivize
                        particular parts of the fleet to further equip their aircraft with such avionics. In response,
                        FAA has developed a set of potential solutions to ensure that early adopters reap early
                        operational benefits—such as decreased flight times and fuel burn.

                        Page 11                                                                        GAO-12-1011T
•     insufficient testing to identify software issues before deployment at
      key sites,
•     insufficient communication between the program office and field sites,
•     insufficient stakeholder involvement during system development and
      deployment. 22
The delays with ERAM added an estimated $18 million per year to the
costs of maintaining the system that ERAM was meant to replace.
Additionally, ERAM is important to the on-time implementation of two
other key NextGen acquisitions—Data Communications (Data Comm)
and System Wide Information Management (SWIM). 23 In part because of
ERAM’s delay, FAA pushed the Data Comm program’s start date from
September 2011 to May 2012, 24 revised the original plan for the first
segment of SWIM to mitigate the impact of ERAM delays on the SWIM
program, and delayed the start date for segment 2A of SWIM from 2010
to July 2012. 25 Looking more broadly, the implementation of NextGen—

  These factors are consistent with the factors that we reported in GAO-12-223 as part of
our overall assessment of FAA’s major air traffic control acquisition programs—many of
which have been long-standing challenges for FAA. These challenges, if they persist, will
impede the implementation of NextGen, especially given interdependencies among many
acquisition programs in which cost increases or delays in one program can affect the
costs and schedules of others. We recommended that FAA further incorporate best
practices into its acquisition processes by requiring cost and schedule risk analysis,
independent cost estimates, and integrated master schedules that take into account
acquisition time frames for entire programs and not just individual segments. FAA
generally concurred with our recommendation and is working to further incorporate best
practices into its acquisition process.
  Data Comm is intended to provide capabilities for pilots and controllers to transmit digital
messages, eventually replacing the current analog voice communication system. SWIM
will provide an information technology infrastructure that will enable information sharing
among the multiple systems that make up the NAS.
   According to FAA, the DataComm start date was also influenced by changes to the
fiscal year 2011 budget environment.
    As noted in appendix I, SWIM Segments 1 and 2A are currently on schedule.

Page 12                                                                        GAO-12-1011T
                       both in the midterm (through 2020) and in the long term (beyond 2020)—
                       will be affected by how well FAA manages program interdependencies. 26

                       As we have previously reported, industry stakeholders have expressed
NextGen                concerns about the fragmentation of authority and lack of accountability
Organizational         for NextGen, two factors that could delay its implementation. 27 We have
Structure Has          also found that programs can be implemented most efficiently when
                       managers are empowered to make critical decisions and are held
Undergone Changes,     accountable for results. 28 To ensure accountability for NextGen results,
but Leadership Roles   several stakeholders have suggested that an office is needed that would
                       report directly to the FAA Administrator or the Secretary of
and Responsibilities   Transportation. Stakeholders have also cited challenges with coordinating
Remain Unclear         implementation of NextGen capabilities across FAA lines of business.
                       With multiple FAA lines of business responsible for various NextGen
                       activities, including offices within FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) 29
                       and outside ATO, coordination and integration is vital since delays in
                       actions required from several offices could prevent or delay NextGen
                       benefits. FAA has made organizational changes in the past in an effort to
                       address these concerns. 30

                         According to FAA progress reports, since the ERAM program was rebaselined in June
                       2011, the program has made progress toward its target of declaring operational readiness
                       date (ORD) of ERAM by 2014, including five en route centers with continuous use of
                       ERAM and an additional four en route centers having passed initial operating tests using
                       ERAM for at least part of the day. However, ERAM capabilities have yet to be installed
                       and tested in the remaining 11 centers, which include New York, Washington, and Florida.
                         See GAO, Best Practices: Better Support of Weapon System Program Managers
                       Needed to Improve Outcomes, GAO-06-110 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 30, 2005). In this
                       study of private sector best practices that could be applied to federal programs, we found
                       that program managers at highly successful companies were empowered to decide
                       whether programs were ready to move forward and to resolve problems and implement
                       solutions. In addition, program managers were held accountable for their choices.
                         The ATO is responsible for operating, maintaining, and modernizing the nation’s air
                       traffic control system.
                         For example, in May 2008, FAA announced a reorganization of its NextGen
                       management structure and created a new Senior Vice President for NextGen and
                       Operations Planning who reported to ATO’s Chief Operating Officer (COO). It also made
                       the JPDO director report directly to this newly created position. Prior to this change, the
                       JPDO director reported directly to both the COO and the FAA Administrator.

                       Page 13                                                                       GAO-12-1011T
Beginning in 2011, FAA made additional changes to its NextGen
organizational structure to address these long-standing issues.
Specifically, FAA reorganized the structure of the office responsible for
carrying out NextGen implementation, moving the office from within the
ATO to under FAA’s Deputy Administrator (who is currently serving as the
Acting Administrator). According to FAA, this change increased
NextGen’s visibility within and outside the agency and created a direct
line of authority and responsibility for NextGen. However, in February
2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act designated that the
Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO)—who is
responsible for NextGen planning and coordination—report directly to the
FAA Administrator 31 and created a new leadership position—the Chief
NextGen Officer 32—who will also report directly to the Administrator. The
Chief NextGen Officer position has not yet been filled. FAA has not yet
made the organizational changes called for by the act or clearly defined
the relationships among the Deputy Administrator, Chief NextGen Officer,
and JPDO director. According to FAA, no organizational changes will be
made until the agency has a permanent FAA Administrator in place.

FAA also reorganized its NextGen efforts around its “Ideas to In-Service
Management” (I2I) process. According to FAA, the I2I will support
enterprise-level, cross-program management in bringing capabilities into
the national airspace system and will formalize collaboration among
NextGen program offices, ATO, and other relevant FAA organizations
such as Aviation Safety. Within ATO, a new Program Management Office
has been established to improve oversight of ATO’s NextGen
implementation efforts. According to FAA, by combining acquisition
program managers into one organization, ATO will ensure more
coordinated program management throughout the full life cycle of
NextGen acquisitions. While an increased focus on accountability for
NextGen implementation is a positive step, it remains to be seen whether
this latest reorganization will produce the desired results without a
clarification of NextGen leadership roles and the fulfillment of all the
necessary leadership positions. As we have previously reported,
leadership is a critical element of success for large-scale systems
integration efforts like NextGen.

 Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 204, 126 Stat., 37.
 Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 208(a), 126 Stat., 40.

Page 14                                                       GAO-12-1011T
                       Particularly in light of constrained budget resources, FAA will have to
FAA Faces Challenges   balance its priorities to help ensure that NextGen implementation stays on
in Balancing the       course. Sustaining the current legacy infrastructure remains critical, as it
                       will continue to be the core of the national airspace system for a number
Needs of the Current   of years, and some of its components will be part of NextGen. For
and NextGen Systems    example, while FAA transitions to satellite-based surveillance through the
and Addressing         deployment of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)
                       technology, the agency expects to continue to operate and maintain
Infrastructure and     current radar technology through at least 2020. At that time, FAA is
Operational Issues     scheduled to make decisions about which radars the agency will
                       decommission and which will be maintained as the back-up system for
That Transcend         ADS-B. If either ADS-B’s deployment or airlines’ efforts to equip with this
NextGen                technology should slip, then FAA may have to maintain and operate some
                       of its radars longer than expected. We have ongoing work for this
                       committee that is further exploring how FAA is preparing for the transition
                       to NextGen and balancing the demands of the legacy and NextGen
                       systems, including potential implications for the legacy systems and FAA
                       budgets if NextGen implementation is delayed.

                       In addition, to fully realize NextGen’s capabilities, reconfiguring facilities
                       that handle air traffic control will be required. FAA recently approved an
                       initial plan to consolidate en route centers and terminal radar approach-
                       control facilities (TRACONs) into large, integrated facilities over the next
                       two decades. However, FAA has yet to make key decisions, such as
                       where to build the first integrated facility. These decisions could affect
                       future consolidation plans. While FAA develops its facilities plan, it faces
                       the immediate task of maintaining and repairing existing facilities so that
                       the current air-traffic control system continues to operate safely and
                       reliably during the expected 20-year transition. According to FAA, in 2011,
                       65 percent of its terminal facilities and 74 percent of its en route facilities
                       were in either poor or fair condition with a total deferred maintenance
                       backlog of $310 million for these facilities. Once FAA develops and
                       implements a facility consolidation plan, it can identify which legacy
                       facilities to continue to repair and maintain and, in doing so, potentially
                       reduce overall facility repair and maintenance costs. 33 FAA has

                         As required by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, we are reviewing FAA facility
                       conditions, including identifying any conditions that could interfere with employees’ ability
                       to effectively and safely perform their duties. Pub. L. No. 112–95, § 610(a)(3), (c), 126
                       Stat., 117.

                       Page 15                                                                         GAO-12-1011T
acknowledged the need to keep long-term plans in mind so that it does
not invest unnecessarily in facilities that will not be used for NextGen.

Moreover, although NextGen is projected to keep delays at many airports
from getting worse than would be expected without these improvements,
NextGen alone is not likely to sufficiently expand the capacity of the
national airspace system. For example, FAA’s NextGen modeling
indicates that even if all ongoing and planned NextGen technologies are
implemented, 14 airports—including some of the 35 busiest—may not be
able to meet the projected increases in demand (fig. 3). 34 The
transformation to NextGen will also depend on the ability of airports to
handle greater capacity. For example, decisions regarding using existing
capacity more efficiently include certifying and approving standards for
using closely spaced parallel runways. At some airports, policies may
need to be developed to address situations where demand exceeds
capacity (e.g., pricing, administrative rules, service priorities, and so
forth). Planning infrastructure projects to increase capacity, such as
building additional runways, can be a lengthy process and will require
substantial advance planning and safety and cost analyses. Also, the
improved efficiency in runway and airspace use that should result from
some NextGen technologies may exacerbate capacity constraints in other
areas, such as taxiways, terminal gates, or parking areas. Finally,
increasing capacity must be handled within the context of limiting
increases in emissions and noise that can affect the communities around

  FAA is in the process of updating this analysis and anticipates completing its report in
June 2013.

Page 16                                                                        GAO-12-1011T
Figure 3: Airports Projected to Need Additional Capacity in 2015 and 2025, Even If Planned Improvements Occur

                                        Chairman Petri, Ranking Member Costello, and Members of the
                                        Subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be
                                        pleased to answer any questions that you may have at this time.

                                        For further information on this testimony, please contact Gerald L.
GAO Contact and                         Dillingham, Ph.D. at (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov. In addition,
Staff                                   contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public
                                        Affairs may be found on the last page of this statement. Individuals
Acknowledgments                         making key contributions to this testimony include Heather Krause and Ed
                                        Laughlin (Assistant Directors), Jessica Bryant-Bertail, Bert Japikse,
                                        Delwen Jones, Molly Laster, Dominic Nadarski, and Melissa Swearingen.

                                        Page 17                                                                 GAO-12-1011T
Appendix I: Selected Baselined NextGen and
                                                Appendix I: Selected Baselined NextGen and
                                                Related Programs Cost and Schedule
                                                Performance as of July 2012

Related Programs Cost and Schedule
Performance as of July 2012

Dollars in millions
                                                                                    original and                          Difference
                                                                                       projected                             between
                                                       Original      Projected       completion                Projected original and
                                            Start      completion    completion         dates (in   Original   cost as of   projected
Program               Description           date       date          date               months)        cost    July 2012         cost
Automatic             A satellite-based     Aug.       Sept. 2014    Sept. 2014                0     $1,682       $1,726          $45a
Dependent             information           2007
Surveillance          broadcasting
Broadcast (ADS-       system to enable
B)                    more precise
                      control of aircraft
Collaborative Air     Encompasses the Aug.             Dec. 2015     Dec. 2015                 0        561         561              0
Traffic               development of  2005
Management            systems to
(CATM)- includes      manage airspace
work packages 1-3     and flight
Data                  Provides data         May        Fiscal year   Fiscal year               0      1,519        1,519             0
Communications-       transmissions         2012       2019          2019
includes segment      directly to pilots
1 phase 1             and their flight
System Wide           The information       July       Sept. 2015    Sept. 2015                0        310         310              0
Information           management            2009
Management            architecture for
(SWIM)-includes       the national
segment 1             airspace system
System Wide           The information       July       Dec. 2017     Dec. 2017                 0        120         120              0
Information           management            2012
Management            architecture for
(SWIM)-includes       the national
segment 2A            airspace system

Time-Based Flow       Modernizes the        April      Nov. 2014     Nov. 2014                 0        115         115              0
Management            Traffic               2010
(TBFM)                Management
                      Advisor (TMA)
                      system aimed at
                      integration of
                      airport and air
                      traffic control

                                                Page 18                                                                    GAO-12-1011T
                                           Appendix I: Selected Baselined NextGen and
                                           Related Programs Cost and Schedule
                                           Performance as of July 2012

Dollars in millions
                                                                                      original and                              Difference
                                                                                         projected                                 between
                                                     Original            Projected     completion                    Projected original and
                                       Start         completion          completion       dates (in     Original     cost as of   projected
Program               Description      date          date                date             months)          cost      July 2012         cost
En Route              A new enroute air June         Dec. 2010           Aug. 2014                44        2,155          2,485              330
Automation            traffic control   2003
Modernization         system for high
(ERAM)                altitude traffic
                                           Source: GAO analysis of FAA data.
                                            According to FAA, this difference is the result of additional work added to the ADS-B program
                                           baseline in March 2011 and includes congressional earmarks of $9.3 million in fiscal 2008 and $6.8
                                           million in fiscal year 2009 as well as an additional $15 million held in reserve to mitigate potential
                                           automation risks. In addition, the Colorado Wide Area Multilateration Phase II was added to the
                                           program ($13.6 million).

                                           Page 19                                                                                 GAO-12-1011T
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