recommended reading

Planning and execution failures threaten FAA's NextGen program

The Federal Aviation Administration is doing a better job of developing a series of projects to modernize the nation's air traffic system, some portions of which have run years past deadline and as much as $500 million over budget, government watchdogs testified Wednesday.

FAA's Next Generation or NextGen program remains threatened, however, both by planning and implementation failures and by possible FAA funding cuts, agency executives and government auditors told a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee aviation panel.

NextGen aims to revolutionize air travel by 2025 by replacing a decades-old ground-based radar tracking system with a more efficient satellite-based system and by developing a method to transfer flight information through data packages rather than through lengthy radio conversations.

A May study by the Deloitte consulting firm estimated about $280 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy if the NextGen program is completed on time.

The satellite tracking system will save time, money and fuel, according to background information compiled by committee staff.

Radar-based air traffic systems require planes to run on a limited number of approved airways, similar to highways, so FAA can better guard against collisions. Those routes often require planes to travel extra distances and burn more fuel, such as on the approach to Washington's Reagan National Airport where planes must fly at a high altitude until just before they reach the airport and then descend rapidly, witnesses said.

Some critical elements of the NextGen program were delayed by poor planning, overly long deadlines. and inadequate communication between vendors developing the systems and air traffic controllers who will implement it, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel III testified.

Most notably, full implementation of FAA's $2.1 billion En Route Automation Modernization program, a system for processing flight data that must be completed before other elements of the system can be developed, could be delayed up to six years with cost overruns up to $500 million, he said.

ERAM was a "learning experience" for FAA and led the agency to institute new best practices, Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta told committee members. Those include ensuring early communication between contractors building a tool and the air traffic controllers who will use it and chunking major projects into shorter time frames.

FAA should be able to meet current deadlines for NextGen projects provided it receives funding levels similar to what's in President Obama's proposed fiscal 2012 budget, Huerta said. The president also earmarked an additional $1 billion for FAA NextGen programs in his 2011 American Jobs Act.

Congressional proposals to trim FAA funding by 5 percent would delay NextGen implementation, Huerta said, though he didn't give examples of programs that might be delayed or cut, saying he would have to consult with industry about which programs are most vital.

FAA funding has been hotly disputed this Congress, resulting in a gap in the agency's operations in July and August.

Industry panelists, including Airline Pilots' Association President Lee Moak, came out strongly against a proposed $100 per flight fee for corporate jets that Obama included in his jobs act to boost revenue, calling it a "hidden tax" and a "job killer."

Moak and other industry panelists also vehemently opposed LightSquared's proposed network of cell towers, which the GPS industry says will disrupt service for some high-precision receivers. GPS underpins most of the NextGen program.

Threatwatch Alert

Password cracking

Researcher Discovers Way to Pilfer McDonald's Users' Passwords

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.