Air Traffic Control: The Interim Support Plan Does Not Meet FAA's Needs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-11.

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


                   United   States   General   Accounting   Office
                   Report to Congressidnal Requesters

September   1990

.                  AIR TRAFFIC
                   The Interim Support
                   Plan Does Not Meet
                   FAA’s Needs
                   United States
                   General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   Resources, Community,        and
                   Economic Development         Division


                   September l&l990

                   The Honorable Frank R. Lautenberg
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation
                     and Related Agencies
                   Committee on Appropriations
                   United States Senate

                   The Honorable William Le man
                   Chairman, Subcommittee on‘\, ransportation
                     and Related Agencies
                   Committee on Appropriations
                   House of Representatives

                   As requested in your letter of December 15,1989, we evaluated the
                   planning and analysis supporting the Federal Aviation Administration’s
                   (FAA) Interim Support Plan (ISP). More specifically, we (1) determined
                   whether FAA adequately identified its requirements when developing the
                   ISP and (2) assessed whether the program is progressing in a manner
                   that reflects its stated urgent nature.

                   FAA developed the ISPin 1987 to sustain existing air traffic control (ATC)
                   equipment and increase computer capacity, primarily at terminal radar
                   approach control facilities.’ The program was intended to bridge the gap
                   between current and future ATC systems caused by delays in long-term
                   modernization programs. The ISPis a conglomeration of 15 projects that                          ‘,
                   will upgrade or provide additional air traffic controller positions, air-
                   port radars, weather sensors, landing systems, and communications
                   equipment. It has an estimated cost of about $416 million. The ISP
                   projects are described in appendix I.

                   FAA inadequately identified its requirements for the ISP.FAA did not con-
Results in Brief   duct a requirements analysis as called for by federal regulations and its
                   own procedures. Moreover, FAA did not complete its assessment and
                   approval process for the BP until over a year after seeking funding from
                   the Congress. FAA now views the ISPas insufficient to meet its interim
                   needs and is initiating programs costing at least another $126 million to
                   further expand capacity.

                   ’ Terminalradarapproachcontrolfacilitiesarelocatedat or nearairportsto directaircraftarrivals
                   anddeparturesinto andoutof thejurisdictionof theairportcontmltowers.

                   Page1                                                 GAO/RCRDW213
                                                                                    Interim Support Plan

                           be determined through a requirements analysis. The analysis is to
                           include the present and projected work load and a performance evalua-
                           tion of the currently installed automated data processing systems. These
                           regulations apply to the most costly ISPprojects, which upgrade the
                           information processing equipment for air traffic controllers.

                           FAAnow intends to supplement the ISPwith programs that provide addi-
FAA Did Not                tional interim capacity. We believe FAA might not have underestimated
Adequately Plan and        its capacity needs if it had adequately analyzed its requirements when
Assessthe ISP              designing the ISPand assessed it in a timely and responsive manner.

FAA Did Not Adequately     As a large expenditure of Airport and Airway Trust Funds, the ISP
Analyze Its Requirements   deserves a strong justification.” Such a justification should have been
                           provided by a requirements analysis, as mandated by the Federal Infor-
                           mation Resources Management Regulation and configuration manage-
                           ment. A requirements analysis should assess the performance of current
                           systems. For the ISP, we believe data such as current capacity usage
                           levels, equipment outages, and spare parts shortages would have been
                           appropriate indicators of performance. A requirements analysis should
                           also assess the present and projected work load. We believe that a com-
                           parison of current and projected capacity, reliability, and maintain-
                           ability levels would have accomplished this assessment for the ISP.

                           However, FAA did not perform such an analysis in designing the ISPor
                           before requesting funds for the ISPfrom the Congress. In July 1987, FAA
                           commissioned a working group of its headquarters, regional, and con-
                           tractor staff to devise a plan to meet FAA’s interim needs. Teams on
                           capacity, reliability and maintainability, and air-to-ground equipment
                     :     were established. The teams defined problems, received briefings from
                           FAA and contractor staff, surveyed the regions, and identified projects
                           they believed were necessary. The teams then reconvened, combined
                           their various projects, and proposed them as the ISP.Instead of devel-
                           oping projects on the basis of a rigorous requirements analysis, the
                           working group based the projects primarily on the general knowledge of
                           experienced regional and headquarters staff. According to the working

                           “Establishedin 1970,theAirport andAirwayTrustFundfinancescapitalandothercostsassociated
                           with theATCsystemfacilitiesandequipment.TrustFundrevenuesaregenerated mostlyby an8
                           percenttax onairlinetickets

                           Page 3                                           GAO/‘EcED9o213   Interim   Support   plan

                        requirements for the Voice Switching and Control, Advanced Automa-
                        tion, Automated Weather Observing, Microwave Landing, and Air Route
                        Surveillance Radar Systems.7

FAA Did Not Assessthe   The working group finished developing the ISPin August 1987. Support
ISP in a Timely or      and approval of the program were soon gained through briefings to
                        FAA’SAssociate Administrator for Development and Logistics, the Asso-
ResponsiveManner        ciate Administrator for Air Traffic, and the Department of Transporta-
                        tion’s Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs. Such high-level
                        approval allowed the ISPto be included in the fiscal year 1989 budget
                        submission to the Congress in January 1988. FAA officials wanted to
                        include the ISPin the first budget possible because they considered it
                        urgent. In June 1988, FAA added the ISPto the NASPlan, and in Sep-
                        tember 1988, the Congress appropriated the total $150 million that was
                        requested for the first year.

                        Only after these events did FAA begin activities associated with assessing
                        and approving the program through the configuration management pro-
                        cess. For example, in March 1989, after including the ISPin its budget for
                        the second year, FAA started the required assessment and approval pro-
                        cess for the ISPto ensure that it was technically sound and properly
                        coordinated with other programs, This process involved developing an
                        ISPproposal and having the 32 relevant FAA offices and the SEICevaluate
                        and comment on the proposal. The ISPwas approved through the process
                        3 months later, in June 1989, almost 2 years after the program was
                        developed, and 9 months after it was initially funded.

                        FAA’s guidance for conducting the formal assessment and approval pro-
                        cess does not clearly state when it should take place in relationship to a
                        funding request for a project. The FAA official responsible for developing
                        the guidance believes it is preferable for projects to be formally assessed
                        and approved before being included in the budget. We agree because the
                        process provides a thorough review by key officials at FAA and the SEIC.
                        As it did for the ISP,this review can raise concerns that necessitate
                        important changes in the program.

                        During the assessment and approval process for the ISP,FAA and the SEIC
                        raised serious concerns in their written comments. Some of the SEIC’S
                        comments were related to its February 1988 cost-benefit study on the

                        ‘sir TrafficControl:ContinuedImprovements
                                                               Neededin FAA’sManagement
                                                                                     of theNASPlan(GAO/

                        Page6                                        GAO/RCEB-90-213   Interim SupportPhn

                          it planned to procure and provided support for the locations where it
                          planned to install the equipment.

FAA Is Developing         FAA now plans additional interim projects for more computer capacity at
Additional Interim        terminals. FAAhas proposed one new project and is considering others to
                          address unforeseen needs at terminals. These projects will cost at least
Projects                  $126 million. One project will modernize and enhance FAA’Sterminal
                          software at a cost of $59 million. The initial year of funding for this
                          program was fiscal year 1990. Among other things, this project will
                          standardize the software changes made locally at terminals to gain
                          capacity. FAAis developing another project to provide 150 controller dis-
                          plays for large terminal facilities, in addition to the 100 provided by ISP,
                          at a cost of $67 million. FAAis also considering providing additional com-
                          puter capacity for 5 to 15 “high density” terminal facilities, probably
                          through systems like that at the New York terminal facility. On the basis
                          of the cost of equipment and related items for the New York system, we
                          believe upgrading each terminal will cost at least $8 million. Although
                          our review did not assess the justification provided for these additional
                          projects, we believe FAA should conduct a requirements analysis in con-
                          formity with the Federal Information Resources Management Regulation
                          for each to avoid the same problems that characterized the ISP’Splan-
                          ning and assessment.

                          FAA’Sprocurement and installation of IsP equipment are behind schedule,
FAA’s Procurement         although FAA considers the program urgently needed. When FAAplanned
and Installation of ISP   the ISP,it set unrealistic procurement and installation schedules.
Equipment Are Behind      At the April 1988 hearings to consider the first FAAbudget submission
Schedule                  that included the ISP,the then-FAA Administrator said of the program:
                          “there is probably no more serious operational requirement.” FAA’Sorig-
                          inal schedules and plans to expedite procurements through sole source
                           and existing contracts whenever possible reflected this urgency. By the
                          end of fiscal year 1989, FAAhad planned to have virtually every ISPpro-
                          ject under contract and the first equipment installed for several projects.
                           However, only 5 of the 15 projects were under contract by the end of
                           fiscal year 1989. At the time of our review, 8 of the 15 projects were
                          under contract, but no ISPprojects have been completed and only 2
                          projects have had any equipment installed. On average, FAA is about 1
                           year behind its original contract schedule and 3 years behind its original
                           installation schedule (see app. I). According to FAA’sestimates, it will be

                          Page7                                       GAO/RCED-30.213
                                                                                   Interim SupportPlan

                    We believe that before proposing the ISP, FAA should have given this
Conclusions         expenditure from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund more careful con-
                    sideration. FM should have better defined its interim requirements for
                    sustaining terminal operations until long-term modernization programs
                    are completed. Also, FAA should have conducted the formal assessment
                    and approval process and requirements analysis before asking the Con-
                    gress to fund the ISPand should have better addressed the major con-
                    cerns raised during the process once it was conducted. If FAA had
                    adequately planned and assessed the ISP,it might not have underesti-
                    mated its interim capacity needs. As a result, FAA now intends to supple-
                    ment the ISPwith additional projects.

                    We also believe that, in planning the ISP,FAA should have set more real-
                    istic schedules for procuring and installing ISPequipment. Despite the
                    purported urgency of the program, FAA now estimates that it will be
                    1998 before the traveling public can benefit from FAA’s using all the ISP
                    equipment at its terminal facilities.

                    We have previously reported on problems with planning and imple-
                    menting major NASPlan initiatives. The ISPexhibits the same problems.
                    We are recommending changes to ensure that future interim projects are
                    planned and assessed more effectively.

                    Because FAA has been developing additional interim projects, we recom-
Recommendations     mend that the Secretary of Transportation direct the FAA Administrator

                  . ensure that FAA properly applies its assessment and approval process
                    and the Federal Information Management Resources Regulation,
                    including conducting requirements analyses, to future projects before
                    submitting them to the Congress for funding; and
                  . develop specific capacity, reliability, and maintainability requirements
                    and goals for planning and assessing interim programs.

                    To determine how effectively FAA planned and assessed the ISP,we
                    reviewed studies on equipment upgrades, interviewed officials who
                    were part of the 1987 team that devised the ISP,and reviewed documen-
                    tation of the configuration management process for the ISP.We reviewed
                    the SEX’S cost-benefit study and discussed the ISPand FAA’Splanning and
                    approval process with SEICofficials. We interviewed the BP program
                    manager as well as the facility and equipment program managers for the

                    Page9                                      GAO/RCJ?&9O-213
                                                                           Interim SupportPlan
Page11   GAO/RCED-90213
                     Interim SupportPlan

ARTS      Automated Radar Terminal System
ASR       airport surveillance radar
EAR%      En Route Automated Radar Terminal System
FAA       Federal Aviation Administration
ISP       Interim Support Plan
NAS       National Airspace System
ORD       first operational readiness demonstration
SEIC      System Engineering and Integration Contractor
TRACQN    Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility

Page13                                   GAO/RCEW90.213
                                                     Interim SupportPlan

Table 1.1:Status of ISP Contracts, as of
April 1990                                 Dollars in millions
                                                                                                 Original             Current
                                                                                         contract award       contract award             cost of
                                           Projects                                            milestone           milestone8            project
                                           ARTS IllA                         -.
                                              Solid state memory                                      1989                 1989             $47.5
                                              Keyboards, trackballs, software, and
                                           -     ancillary equipment         -.~                       1989                1989               3.2
                                              Additional   radar oositions                             1989                1990              83.4
                                              Disk drive refurbishment                                 1989                1989               7.9
                                           ARTS II/HA                      -
                                              Separate flight plan                                     1989                1990                .3
                                              Multi-sensor processor                                   1988                1990               4.8
                                              Tape drive replacement                                   1989                1990               5.4
                                               Additional radar positions                              1989                1990              40.8
                                              Uninterruptable power system                             1989                1988b              75
                                           Refurbishment of En Route
                                               Automated Radar Terminal System
                                                 (EARTS)                                               1989                 1989              3.1
                                           Airport surveillance radars                                 1989                 1990            135.6
                                           Long-range radar upgrade                                                                          43.5
                                               Receivers                                               1989                 1990                    c
                                               Transmitters                                            1990                 1992                    c
                                           integrated communicatrons swrtching
                                               systems bypass                                          1989                 1990                17.0
                                            Instrument landing system glade slope
                                               antennas                                                1989                 1990                 7.3
                                            Airport weather sensors                                    1989                 1990                 5.1
                                           Total estimated project cost                                                                    412.4
                                           ISP program support                                                                               3.3
                                           Total Estimated Cost                                                                           $415.7
                                           Note The years prowded are fiscal years
                                           “FAA has already awarded some contracts for projects wth current m&tones in 1990 Including the
                                           long-range radar receivers upgrade, airport weather sensors, and alrport swelllance radar projects
                                           “Funds were borrowed from other programs to make use of an existing contract, no ISP funds have
                                           been obligated yet on this Item

                                           ‘For the purposes of our rewew, we obtained only the total cost for the long-range radars and not how
                                           that total was broken down between receivers and transm!tters

                                            Page15                                                     GAO/R4XIHW213
                                                                                                                   Interim SupportPIan

                        FAA awarded contracts for upgrading both systems so that now all of the
                        ARTSIII systems have been converted to ARTSIIIA, and FAA plans to con-
                        vert all the ARTS11sto ARTSIIAs by August 1991.

                        ARTSIIIA facilities have been experiencing limited track capacity and
ARTS IIIA Solid State   low memory reliability largely because of the outdated core memory
Memory                  currently used. To increase capacity and improve reliability, FAA plans
                        to replace the core memory at each ARTSIIIA facility with solid state
                        memory. The solid state unit processes data 20- to 30-percent more effi-
                        ciently than the core memory. Since the core memory is no longer manu-
                        factured, FAA believes that replacing it with solid state units will
                        facilitate maintenance and supply support of the existing ARTSIIIA
                        equipment. FAA contracted for solid state memory in 1989.

                        FAA claims that ARTSIIIA facilities have a high failure rate with their
ARTS IIIA Keyboards,    keyboards and trackballs, which together make up part of the data
Trackballs, Software,   entry subsystem. The keyboard is arranged in alphabetical and numer-
and Ancillary           ical sequence and is used by the controllers to enter flight data and to
                        make modifications to the displayed information. To enter display coor-
Equipment               dinate information, the controllers rotate the black plastic trackball,
                        which causes the small symbol on the display to move in a corre-
                        sponding motion. FAA plans to procure 126 keyboards and trackballs and
                        the necessary software and ancillary equipment (communications,
                        clocks, etc.) to accommodate the hardware requirements. The planned
                        procurement will provide two keyboard and trackball spares for each
                        TRACON.FAA contracted for this equipment in fiscal year 1989 and
                        expects that it will improve system performance and facilitate easier

                        Because of the increase in air traffic and training needs, FAA has deter-
ARTS IIIA Additional    mined that it needs 100 additional ARTSIIIA radar positions at a limited
Radar Positions         number of terminal facilities. FAA plans to replace the older ARTSIIIA
                        data entry and display subsystems at 5 facilities with the 100 new fully
                        digital ARTSdisplays and then use the displaced data entry and display
                        subsystems for expansion positions at less busy ARTSIIIA locations. The
                        installation of these additional positions will accommodate continued air
                        traffic growth and eliminate the output display overload problems now
                        encountered at some ARTSIIIA facilities. FAA expects to sign the contract
                        for these new positions in fiscal year 1990.

                        Page17                                      GAO/RCED9@213InterhSupportPlm

                       occur with the magnetic tape unit. FAA plans to contract for disk drive
                       subsystems to replace the tape drives at all ARTSII locations in fiscal
                       year 1990.

                       As with ARTSIIIA, FAAhas determined that because of projected air
ARTS IIA Additional    traffic growth and training needs at various ARTSIIA facilities, an addi-
Radar Positions        tional 168 radar positions are needed. FAA plans to procure the neces-
                       sary additional radar displays: 30 to be used as operational positions
                       and the remaining 128 to be used for training. Procuring these new posi-
                       tions allows some radars to be designated specifically for training
                       instead of training controllers on the operational displays that are
                       needed to control traffic. FAA plans to contract for these new positions in
                       fiscal year 1990.

                       Some ARTSIIA facilities have been reporting a high incidence of outages
ARTS IIA               because of electrical power fluctuations and interruptions. These out-
Uninterruptable        ages occur because commercial power fluctuates beyond what FAA's
Power System           solid state systems can tolerate. FAA plans to resolve this problem by
                       procuring uninterruptable power systems for those sites showing a high
                       incidence of power-induced failures. These power systems will “rectify”
                       the commercial power so that it is more easily accepted by solid state
                       systems and thus less likely to fluctuate or stop. They will also provide
                       a backup within 15 seconds if the commercial power fails. FAA procured
                       these systems through an existing contract in fiscal year 1988.

                       EARTSis essentially an expanded ARTSposition in an en route environ-
Upgrades to En Route   ment instead of in a terminal facility. EXWScan accept either short- or
Automated Radar        long-term radar information and can therefore provide both en route
Terminal System        and terminal air traffic control services, depending on what is needed at
                       a given location. The ISPproject will upgrade or provide spare parts for
(EARTS)                three different parts of the system: tape drives, generators, and commu-
                       nications It will also enable EIARTSto place lost or downed aircraft more
                       accurately. Two of the four EARTSprojects have been completed, one is
                       in operational testing, and FAA plans to complete contracting for the
                       other project in 1991.

                       ASR-9radars provide controllers with air traffic and weather informa-
Airport Surveillance   tion within about 60 miles of terminals, FAA uses such criteria as the cost
Radars (ASR-9)         of the establishment, the instrument operations at the terminal, and the

                        page19                                     GAO/ECEDgO213InterimSopportPlan
                  Appendix I
                  JSP Projecta

                  additional landing guidance to pilots, helping them to achieve the
                  optimal glide slope of 3 degrees. FAA intends to contract for the conver-
                  sion kits in fiscal year 1990.

                  Airport weather sensors provide critical information to controllers who
Airport Weather   use the information to assist pilots in takeoff and landing procedures.
Sensors           The current weather sensors at terminals are failing because of their
                  age. This has prompted supply support problems. FAA plans to procure
                  109 cloud height indicators and 80 remote readout hygrothermometers
                  to replace the old equipment. The cloud height indicators determine the
                  height of clouds with laser beams, replacing the older equipment that
                  used the light reflected off the clouds to measure cloud height. The
                  remote readout hygrothermometers give the controllers the temperature
                  and the dew point, from which they determine the likelihood of fog. This
                  new equipment will provide more accurate weather information and
                  facilitate easier maintenance by ensuring manufacturer-supportable
                  equipment. FAA contracted for the new sensors in fiscal year 1990, via
                  an existing contract.

                   Page 21                                    GAO/RCED90213   Interim   Support   Plan
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Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Report

                        John W. Hill, Associate Director, Transportation   Issues
Resources,              Allen Li, Assistant Director
Community, and          Robert E. Levin, Assistant Director
                        Robert D. Wurster, Assignment Manager
Economic                Sara Magoulick, Evaluator-in-Charge
Development Division,   Kathleen M. Johnson, Evaluator
Washington, D.C.

(341247)                Page22                                     GAO/RCELHJ&213
                                                                               Interim SupportPlan
                     Appendix I
                     JSP Projects

                     weather at the terminal to determine whether a facility qualifies for an
                     Ma-9 radar. FAA plans to procure six ASR-9radars with ISPfunds. Two of
                     these will be the second radars at their respective sites; the remaining
                     four are new establishments. These six sites qualified for radars after
                     the original NASPlan Ma-9 radar contract was signed. These additional
                     radars are being purchased through an option to the original contract.
                     FAA executed this option in late 1989.

Long-RangeRadar      200-mile radius. These radars are having supportability and maintain-
Upgrade              ability problems, largely because they are equipped with outdated
                     vacuum tube circuitry. FAA plans to procure 76 solid state transmitter
                     modification kits and 12 solid state receiver modification kits to replace
                     the vacuum tubes. The radars will eventually be replaced under the NAS
                     Plan, but FAA believes that upgrading the existing radars will allow
                     these radars to be maintained until the replacement program is com-
                     plete. FAA contracted for the receivers in late 1989 by modifying an
                     existing contract and will establish a new contract for the transmitters
                     in fiscal year 1992.

Integrated            cation between pilots and briefers in TRACONS     and towers that handle
Communications        aircraft operating under instrument flight rules.’ As its name suggests,
Switching Systems     the bypass will make it possible to circumvent the integrated communi-
                      cations switching systems and continue communications on a limited
BYPa=                 number of frequencies when the switching system fails. This equipment
                      will be installed at 80 facilities. FAA plans to contract for this equipment
                      in fiscal year 1990.

                      Obstructions around runways, either naturally occurring or resulting
Instrument Landing    from new construction, can adversely affect landings by interfering
System Glide Slope    with signals being transmitted to the planes by existing instrument
Antennas              landing systems. As a result, pilots can misgauge the angle of descent.
                      To avoid this danger, FAA plans to procure 55 glide slope conversion kits,
                      which, by adding a third antenna to the glide slope facilities, will give

                      ‘Aircraft fly undereitherinstrumentor visualflight rules.Instrumentflight rulesaircraftmustbe
                      controlledandin contactwith anair traffic controller,whilevisualflight rulesaircraftareonly
                      monitoredby wntrollers Visualflight rulesaircraft,however,mustfollowtherulesandflight prow
                      duresgoverningthe specificairspacein whichtheychoose     to fly andarerestrictedfromsomeair-
                      spacewoundmajorairportsfor safetyreasons.

                      Page 20                                               GAO/RCEB90213     Interim   Support       Plan

                        The disk drive units of the ARTSIIIA system store air traffic control
ARTS IIIA Disk Drive    software, load the software into computer memory, download the
Refurbishment           software from computer memory, and record air traffic control activity
                        information. This recorded information is used to identify software
                        glitches and investigate accidents and incidents. The units have been
                        failing at an increasing rate. FAA plans to refurbish 154 disk drives,
                        upgrade 86 disk control units, and procure disk test equipment. This
                        project will involve pulling disk drives out of the TRACONSand replacing
                        them temporarily with spares while they are refurbished. Once the
                        refurbishment is complete, the drives will be reinstalled at the TRACKINS.
                        FAA contracted for the refurbishment and spares in fiscal year 1989.

                        To cope with insufficient flight plan capacity at ARTSIIA facilities, FAA
ARTS IIA Separate       plans to develop a separate flight plan data file for all ARTSIIA
Flight Plan             software. Thus far, all aircraft data have been contained in a single
                        table in memory that holds a total of 256 aircraft. FAA has determined
                        that a separate arrival/departure tabular list of flight plans will hold
                        data for more aircraft and will in this way meet the continued demands
                        of growing air traffic. FAA plans to contract for this new software in
                        fiscal year 1990.

                        The procurement of dual-sensor, dual-processor ARTSIIA systems is pro-
ARTS IIA Multi-Sensor   posed for the largest ARTSIIA locations and those ARTSIIA locations
Processor               requiring dual-radar coverage. Currently, ARTSIIA facilities are unable
                        to accept more than 11 radar displays or to support dual-radar sensors.
                        In addition to enabling the ARTSIIA system to accept more than 11 dis-
                        plays or another radar sensor, this second processor will also provide a
                        back-up level of operations in the event of a processor failure. The ISP
                        will provide funding for the first site at Pensacola, Florida, and the con-
                        tract will have options for the remaining sites. FAA is scheduled to con-
                        tract for the processor in fiscal year 1990.

                        Like the ARTSIIIA disk drives, the ARTSII magnetic tape drive units store
ARTS II Tape Drive      air traffic control software, load the software into computer memory,
Replacement             download the software from computer memory, and record air traffic
                        control information. The problems with these tape drives include both a
                        high failure rate and inadequate supply support because one of their
                        necessary components, the drive motor, is no longer manufactured. This
                        situation is especially critical because the facilities have no back-up
                        method to permit a reload of the operation software if a failure should

                        Page13                                     GAO/RCED-90-213InterimSupportPLan

Table 1.2:Status of the Implementation of
ISP Projects, as of April 1990                                                              Origina\:;:               Current or
                                                                                                             a       actual ORD            Equipment
                                            Projects                                            milestone        date milestone              installed
                                            ARTS IllA
                                               SolId state memory                                      1990                  1990                    yes
                                               Keyboards, trackballs, software,
                                                  and ancillary equipment                              1989                  1992                     “0
                                               Additional radar positions                              1990                  1993                     no
                                               Disk drive refurbishment                                     c                1992                     “0
                                            ARTS IIA
                                               Separate flight plan                                     1989                  1992                    “0
                                               Multi-sensor processor                                   1989                  1992                    no
                                               Tape drive replacement                                   1989                  1992        -~~         “0
                                               Additional radar oosltions                               1989                  1992                    “0
                                               Unlnterruptable power systems                                                  1989                    "0
                                            Refurbishment of En Route
                                               Automated Radar
                                               Terminal System (EARTS)b                                                              c
                                            AIrport Surveillance Radars                                                       1993                    “0
                                            Long-range radar upgrade
                                               Receivers                                                  1989                1991                      “0
                                               Transmitters                                               1990                1995                      “0
                                            Integrated communications
                                               switching systems bypass                                 1989                  1993          --~-      “0
                                            Instrument landing system glide
                                               slope antennas                                             1989                1992                      no
                                            Airport weather sensors                                       1989                1990                      “0

                                            Note: Years provided are fiscal years.
                                            aORD means first operational madness demonstration

                                            ‘This ISP project refurbishes or provides spare parts for three different parts of the EARTS system The
                                            equipment mvolved in these efforts is all either fully or partially installed In 1991, FAA hopes to complete
                                            contracting for the fourth part of this project. which will enable EARTS to place lost or downed alrcraft
                                            CORD dates not available for these projects

                                            Air traffic controllers at FAA'S Terminal Radar Approach Control
Automated Radar                             (TRACON) facilities sequence and separate aircraft arriving at or
Terminal System                             departing from airports under their control. These TRACONS are each
(ARTS)                                      equipped with Automated Radar Terminal Systems (ARTS), a computer
                                            system that receives input from radar, identifies and tracks aircraft,
                                            associates the aircraft with flight plans, provides safety warnings, and
                                            displays aircraft identification and position location to controllers. The
                                            ARTSsystem is divided into two groups: ARTS III, which supports the 63
                                            largest TRACONS, and ARTSII, which supports the 119 smaller TRACONS.

                                            Page16                                                          GAO/RCEB9@213InterimSupport~h
Appendix I

ISP Projects

               The Interim Support Plan (ISP) is divided into 15 projects, which are
               intended to forestall system support problems, increase capacity, and
               provide for expansion of the air traffic system until the Advanced Auto-
               mation System is implemented under the National Airspace System (NAS)
               Plan. Four of these projects were contracted in fiscal year 1989, four
               have been contracted in fiscal year 1990, and the remaining projects are
               scheduled to be contracted in late fiscal year 1990 or in 1991. Table I.1
               gives the dollar value of each project and the original and recently
               revised schedule for contracting. Table I.2 gives the original and
               recently revised schedule for the first installation under each project
               and shows whether any of the upgrades have been installed. This
               appendix also briefly describes the ISP projects, the inadequacies of the
               existing system that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) believes
               made the projects necessary, and what FM hopes to accomplish through
               their installation.

               Page 14                                   GAO/RCRB9@213   Interim   Support   Plan

Letter                                                                                                    1
Appendix I                                                                                              14
ISP Projects            Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS)
                        ARTS IIIA Solid State Memory
                        ARTS IIIA Keyboards, Trackballs, Software, and                                  17
                             Ancillary Equipment
                        ARTS IIIA Additional Radar Positions                                            17
                        ARTS IIIA Disk Drive Refurbishment                                              18
                        ARTS IIA Separate Flight Plan                                                   18
                        ARTS IIA Multi-Sensor Processor                                                 18
                        ARTS II Tape Drive Replacement                                                  18
                        ARTS IIA Additional Radar Positions                                             19
                        ARTS IIA Uninterruptable Power System                                           19
                        Upgrades to En Route Automated Radar Terminal System                            19
                        Airport Surveillance Radars (ASR-9)                                              19
                        Long-Range Radar Upgrade                                                         20
                        Integrated Communications Switching Systems Bypass                               20
                        Instrument Landing System Glide Slope Antennas                                   20
                        Airport Weather Sensors                                                          21

Appendix II                                                                                              22
Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table 1.1: Status of ISP Contracts, as of April 1990                             15
                        Table 1.2: Status of the Implementation of ISP Projects, as                      16
                            of April 1990

                        Page 12                                    GAO/RCF.D-30.213   Interim   Snpport Plan

         individual ISPprojects. We discussed the need for the ISPwith FAA’s Air
         Traffic Requirements staff, officials at a terminal radar approach con-
         trol facility, and an official at the FAA Supply Depot.

         To determine the status of FAA's implementation of the ISP,we discussed
         its progress with the ISPprogram manager, Air Traffic Requirements
         officials, and the facility and equipment program managers. We
         reviewed project performance schedules maintained by the SEICfor cer-
         tain ISPprojects. We also obtained funding information from FAA’s
         budget office. Our review was conducted between August 1989 and July
          1990 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing

         As agreed with your office, we did not obtain official agency comments.
         However, FAA officials reviewed a draft of this report for accuracy.
         They generally agreed that the information in the report was accurate.
         In a few instances, they suggested some technical changes, which we
         made as appropriate. Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier,
         we plan no further distribution of this report until 14 days from the
         date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to interested con-
         gressional committees; the Secretary of Transportation; and the Admin-
         istrator, FAA. We will also make copies available to other interested
         parties upon request.

         This work was performed under the direction of Kenneth M. Mead,
         Director, Transportation Issues, who may be reached at (202) 275-1000.
         Major contributors are listed in appendix II.

    I/   J. Dexter’Peach
    V    Assistant Comptroller General

          Page 10                                   GAO/‘lWED3C-213   Interim   Support   Plan

1998 before the traveling public can benefit from all the ISPequipment
at terminal facilities.

Obligation rates for the ISPare not as high as planned, which also indi-
cates the program is behind schedule. FAA planned to obligate ISPfunds
in the year they were appropriated, although the funds are available by
law for 5 years. We agree that urgency would be best served by obli-
gating the funds as soon as FAA can arrange to do so. However, despite
reprogramming $11.5 million of ISPfunds to other NAS Plan projects, FAA
had obligated only 34 percent of the remaining fiscal year 1989 funds as
of March 1990, leaving about $91 million to be obligated. As of the same
date, FAA had obligated about 31 percent of the fiscal year 1990 funds,
leaving about $50 million to be obligated. By the end of fiscal year 1990,
FAA estimates that only 57 percent of 1989 and 1990 funds will be obli-
gated. In addition, FAA has extended its funding plans for the ISPinto
fiscal year 1992, a year beyond the original plan.

Clearly, FAA’s initial contracting, installation, and obligation schedules
for the ISPwere optimistic. The FAA official responsible for the original
schedules based them on information provided by FAA program man-
agers who were to procure the equipment. He believes the program man-
agers were aware of the urgency FAA attributed to the ISPand provided
optimistic estimates that reflected that urgency. Because the official had
recently transferred to headquarters from an FAA field office and had
limited procurement experience, he said that he did not recognize that
the information was unrealistic.

Given the history of ATC system procurements, we believe that FAA
 could have foreseen that its original schedules were optimistic. We
reported in November 1988 that NAS Plan projects were behind their
 1983 schedules by an average of 3 years. We recently testified that pro-
ject delays persist.” A comparison of FAA’s estimates as of January 1990
 with its prior year estimates showed that 8 of 12 major projects experi-
enced an additional delay of 200 or more dayslo In view of these past
trends, FAA needs to guard against setting unrealistic schedules for
future interim projects.

%ues Relatedto FAA’sFiscal   Year   1991Budget Request
                                                                   Apr. l&1990).
‘“Air TrafficControl:Statusof FAA’sEffortto Modernize

Page 8                                             GAO/RClXNO-213   Interim   Support Plan

ISP,which is required by the configuration management process. The
study analyzed 10 of the 15 ISPprojects and determined that benefits
outweighed costs for only 2 projects, which upgrade existing air traffic
controller positions, and a portion of a third project on airport radars.
However, FAA stated in its March 1989 proposal for the ISPthat a cost-
benefit study was not conducted because the projects are necessary and
the benefits of capacity improvement and system maintainability have
no generally accepted standards for quantification. Although FAA now
recognizes that a cost-benefit study was conducted, it believes the study
underestimates ISPbenefits. In its comments on the ISPproposal, the SEIC
stated that more than a dozen studies have demonstrated valid and FAA-
approved methods of assessing benefits like those projected in the ISP.
We agree with the SEICthat valid analyses of benefits are possible and
believe that cost-benefit analysis is a useful tool for planning the NAS

The SEICand FAA offices had other concerns about the documentation
provided for the ISP.The SEICcommented that “there is no supporting
documentation to define how the requested quantities were determined,
or at what locations the improvements will be made.” In addition, the
SEICrecommended that “a line-by-line approval of the ISPinitiatives be
undertaken since there is no integrated functional relationship among
the various ISPinitiatives.” By this, the SEICmeant that since the ISP
projects upgrade such different types of equipment, they should be con-
sidered separately. One FAA office, the Management Control Service,
commented that the justification of urgency for the ISPwas “vague and
contains generalities.” Another, the Office of System Engineering and
Program Management, was concerned that some of the proposed airport
radars did not meet FAA’Sown criteria for establishing which airports
need radars.

In response to these concerns, in April 1989, FAA cancelled its plans to
procure the airport radars that did not meet its own establishment cri-
teria. The change reduced the total projected cost of this ISPproject by
about $88 million. FAA did not change any of the other seven procure-
ments that were found not to be cost-beneficial, formally refute the
SEIC’Scost-benefit study, provide additional supporting documentation
for quantities or locations, or conduct a line-by-line approval. We believe
FAA should have been more responsive to the concerns about the ISP.FAA
should have documented its explanation for the quantities of equipment

‘Air TrafficControl:ContinuedImprovementa
                                            in FAA’sManagement
                                                            of theNASPlan(GAO/
mBS9-7, Nov.10,19&J).

Page 6                                      GAO/RCEDw)-213   Interim   Support   Plan

group, the ISPwas required because of capacity, reliability, and main-
tainability shortfalls with current equipment, but we could find no evi-
dence that it documented actual or projected shortfalls in these areas.
Without a requirements analysis, FAA had no sound basis for claiming
such shortfalls.

FAA would have been in a better position to perform a requirements
analysis for the ISPif it had a capacity management and performance
monitoring program. In July 1989, we reported that FAA had not effec-
tively defined its capacity needs and did not monitor the performance of
its computer systems.” In December 1989-Z years after initiating the
ISP-FAA responded that it was implementing a performance monitoring
and management tool at large terminals. In June 1990, we recommended
that the Secretary of Transportation direct the Administrator, FAA, to
set up computer capacity and performance management programs at
smaller terminals as well.”

FAA would also have been in a better position to assess its requirements
for interim equipment if it had capacity, reliability, and maintainability
goals. Currently, FAA only has such goals for future equipment. FAA uses
the NASSystem Specification to assess long-term modernization pro-
grams.6 For example, the NASSystem Specification calls for the area con-
trol computer complex, a major modernization project, to have a system
availability of 99.9995 percent and a mean time between failures of
3,340 hours. The FAA official responsible for developing and imple-
menting configuration management policy, procedures, and standards
acknowledges that the NASSystem Specification does not provide suffi-
cient goals for interim projects and that such goals are needed.

The inadequate definition of requirements for ISPfollows a familiar pat-
tern. FAA has had this problem with 5 of the 12 major NASPlan systems.
We reported in November 1988 that FAA had inadequately defined

4S                                                                  (GAO/IMTEG89-63,
July 6, 1989).
“Air TrafficControl:SmallerTermmalSystemsCapacityRequirements
                                                           Needto BeDefined(GAO/
IMTE7J _90_60, June26,19901.
“TheNASSystemSpecification,    Volume1,FunctionalandPerformance   Requirements for the
NationalAirspaceSystem,  Generalestablishesthefunctional,performance,design,manufacture/con-
for theNationalAirspaceSystem.

Page4                                              GAO/‘RCEB9@213
                                                               Interim SupportPlan

             The ISPis not progressing in a manner that reflects its stated urgent
             nature. Because FAA is about 1 year behind its contracting schedule and
             about 3 years behind its installation schedule, it will be 1998 before the
             traveling public can benefit from all the ISPequipment.

             FAA’Sproblems with the ISPare familiar. We have previously reported on
             inadequately defined requirements and schedule slippages that delay
             the benefits of ATC modernization to the traveling public. Changes are
             needed to ensure that future projects are planned and assessed more

             In 1981 FAA embarked on a long-term program, the National Airspace
Background   System (NAS) Plan, to modernize the air traffic control system. The NAS
             Plan is funded by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. The NASPlan’s
             purposes are to achieve safer airspace and a more efficient ATC system
             at an affordable cost to the government and the traveling public.

             FAA designed the ISPto meet field operational and maintenance needs
             pending the implementation of NASPlan programs. To expedite the
             interim program, FAA elected to use existing contracts, and sole source
             and off-the-shelf procurements when possible. FAA considered replacing
              the systems with improvements that needed developing and testing or
             just providing additional maintenance for the ATC systems, but it
              rejected these alternatives as either too slow or too expensive to meet its

             As described in draft FAA Order 1800.8F, National Airspace System Con-
             figuration Management, configuration management is FAA’s means of
             formally assessing and approving changes to the NASPlan. Among other
             things, the order calls for FAA to conduct a thorough requirements anal-
             ysis so that changes are traceable to operational requirements and sup
             portive of the FAA’s goals and objectives. Several FAA offices and the
             FAA’SSystem Engineering and Integration Contractor (SEIC) were
             responsible for conducting the configuration management process for
             the BP.

             Further, the Federal Information Resources Management Regulation,
             Part 201-30, requires agencies to base acquisitions of new or additional
             information processing resources on mission needs. These needs are to

             ‘In 1984,FAAs&&d MartinMariettaasits Systems     Engineering
                                                                        andIntegrationContractorto act
             asa technicaladviserfor integratingall theNASPlansystems.