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GAO: Major extra costs and delays in air traffic modernisation programmes

17-Feb-2012 9:47 AM

US' Government Accountability Office (GAO) released (16-Feb-2012) a report on air traffic control (ATC) modernisation. In a review of 30 major ATC acquisition programmes, all of which will contribute to the transition to NextGen, GAO found costs for 11 of the 30 programmes have increased from their initial estimates by a total of USD4.2 billion and 15 programmes experienced delays. The 11 acquisitions that experienced cost increases account for over 60% of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) total acquisition costs (USD11 billion of USD17.7 billion) for the 30 programmes. The 15 acquisitions that experienced schedule delays, of which 10 also had cost increases, ranged from two months to more than 14 years and averaged 48 months. Cost increases and schedule delays occurred due to several factors, many of which have been longstanding challenges for FAA. Specifically, these have involved:

  • Additional or unanticipated system requirements;
  • Insufficient stakeholder involvement (such as controllers’ input) throughout system development;
  • Underestimating the complexity of software development;
  • Unanticipated events including funding shortfalls or work stoppages.

These challenges, if they persist, will impede the implementation of NextGen, especially in light of the interdependencies among many acquisition programmes, where cost increases or delays in one programme can affect the costs and schedules of other programmes. The GAO recommends to better estimate the cost and completion dates for major acquisitions, the FAA should, among other things, require cost and schedule risk analysis, independent cost estimates and integrated master schedules. FAA did not comment on whether or not it agreed with the recommendations. [more - original PR]