GAO Releases Testimony Regarding FAA’s “Some Progress” In Implementation of NextGen

In testimony before the the House Subcommittee on Aviation, Gerald L. Dillingham, Government Accountability Office’s Director of Physical Infrastructure reported that the Federal Aviation Administration has made “some progress” in the implementation of the “Next Generation Air Transportation System” also known as “NextGen,” but delays threaten to impact costs and benefits.  Dr. Dillingham’s testimony discusses the current progress toward implementing NextGen, which will impact nearly every aspect of air transportation by

  1. Using satellite-based surveillance as opposed to ground-based radars;
  2. Using performance-based navigation;
  3. Replacing routine voice communications with data transmissions; and
  4. Organizing and merging the disjointed data that pilots, controllers, airports, airlines, and others currently rely on to operate the system.

The FAA has been planning and developing NextGen since 2003, and is now implementing near-term (through 2012) and mid-term (through 2018) capabilities. Over the years, concerns have been raised by the Congress and other stakeholders that despite years of effort and billions of dollars spent, FAA has not made sufficient progress in deploying systems and producing benefits.

Dr. Dillingham reported that FAA has improved its efforts to implement NextGen and is continuing its work to address critical issues that we, stakeholders, and others have identified over the years. However, some acquisitions have been delayed, which has impacted the timelines of other dependent systems, and the potential exists for other acquisitions to also encounter delays. These delays have resulted in increased costs and reduced benefits. Going forward, Dr. Dillingham testified, the FAA must focus on delivering systems and capabilities in a timely fashion to maintain its credibility with industry stakeholders, whose adoption of key technologies is crucial to NextGen’s success. FAA must also continue to monitor how delays will affect international harmonization issues, focus on human factors issues, streamline environmental approvals, mitigate environmental impacts, and focus on improving management and governance.

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