FAA reorganizing modernization efforts

The Federal Aviation Administration has taken steps to give its air traffic control modernization a boost by reorganizing the units conducting the various projects under one bureau, the General Accounting Office said today.

FAA has grouped its offices related to modernization, including air traffic and research and acquisitions, under the new Air Traffic Organization and in August selected a chief operating officer, Russ Chew, to manage it.

'Implementing the ATO brings together the main players in modernization,' Gerald Dillingham, GAO's director of physical infrastructure issues, told lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation. Previously, FAA offices operated in stovepipes, often pushing their own agendas and working at cross-purposes, Dillingham said.

The FAA will officially unveil the Air Traffic Organization and its management objectives under Chew next week, said Charlie Keegan, FAA's associate administrator for research and acquisitions.

At the same time, FAA is acting on recommendations from GAO and the Transportation Department's Inspector General to evaluate one of its major modernization programs, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System.

Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., is reviewing the effectiveness of a full STARS deployment versus a mixed deployment of STARS and an interim system, the Common Automated Radar Terminal. Mitre will complete the study in November (Click for Oct. 23 GCN story)

'Full STARS deployment remains our preferred option, because it provides better service and will also significantly reduce maintenance costs in the long run. However, we do not yet know if it is the most cost-effective option,' Keegan said.

STARS is an open-architecture system that combines data from multiple radar systems to create an enhanced view of aircraft and weather on high-resolution color displays. Common ARTS is a bridge technology that FAA has deployed at 11 sites until STARS becomes available to controllers nationwide.

FAA still cannot assure that its cost estimates for development and deployment of STARS at 74 airports are reliable because it lacks accurate data on costs and progress, Dillingham said.

The accuracy of estimates takes on more importance as FAA begins its next-generation communications modernization project and the En Route Automation Replacement Modernization to equip controllers directing high-altitude traffic with new hardware and software, Dillingham said.

Despite progress, the agency must further improve management controls, Dillingham said, such as:

  • Complete its enterprise architecture, which makes clear interrelationships among the national airspace systems and the technical standards to which systems must comply, and use the enterprise architecture to manage change

  • strengthen its IT investment management process by setting up procedures to evaluate projects after they have been put in place to determine lessons learned

  • implement a cost-accounting system that complies with federal standards.

  • About the Author

    Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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