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FAA Not Ready For Air Traffic Upgrade

An inspector general says that the Federal Aviation Administration needs to do more planning before jumping in on its major NextGen upgrade.
The Federal Aviation Administration needs to do more planning in order to ensure that NextGen, its long-term air traffic control system upgrade, is successful, the FAA's inspector general said in a new report.

The report, requested by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, says that the FAA needs to take a number of steps before it moves from a planning to an implementation phase of its two-decade, multi-billion dollar project.

At a high level, those steps include establishing firm requirements in order to guide cost and schedule estimates and modifying its acquisition management system to gauge the impact of NextGen investments on other initiatives. The report also says that the FAA still has not properly staffed up and developed "necessary skill sets and expertise" required to make NextGen work.

"FAA has made some progress in developing and shaping a vision for NextGen in the midterm," the report says. "However, FAA has yet to take timely action in a number of critical areas needed to move NextGen from planning to implementation. Not taking timely action on these issues now could delay FAA's plans to transition to NextGen."

Including requirements planning and acquisition management system upgrades, the report focuses largely on the FAA's need to get a better handle on budgeting issues surrounding NextGen before it begins to make major investments. "FAA faces challenges in developing an integrated budget to ensure it leverages the right resources, pursues realistic goals, and secures adequate funding," the report says.

The report also recommends FAA improve partnerships with other agencies, such as NASA, and with the private sector, in order to help plan and develop policy in regards to NextGen. It implies that these partnerships, as of today, leave something to be desired.