Delays in Critical Air Traffic Control Modernization Projects Require Increased FAA Attention to Existing Systems

Gao ID: T-IMTEC-91-14 June 14, 1991

GAO discussed the delays and problems of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Voice Switching and Control System (VSCS) and Advanced Automation System (AAS). GAO noted that: (1) due to continuing development problems, the total cost for VSCS has almost doubled to $1.5 billion since 1989, and the schedule has been delayed for 8 years; (2) under the revised VSCS acquisition strategy, acceptance and operational controller testing of the prototypes were scheduled to be conducted before the production contract award, thereby ensuring that the system selected would meet functional and performance requirements; (3) risks remained that VSCS would not be successfully developed in the near future, since requirements remained difficult to attain and contractors had little time to incorporate changes prior to testing; (4) AAS experienced a 14-month delay, since requirements issues were unresolved at the time of award, FAA and the contractor underestimated the time it would take to develop and test software, and FAA added new requirements; (5) computer capacity shortfalls impaired controllers' ability to maintain safe separation of aircraft and led to a number of interruptions in the primary computer system; and (6) although FAA has taken steps to prevent capacity shortfalls from occurring in the near-term, it has not identified future requirements, making it impossible to determine if its actions to provide additional capacity will continue to be sufficient until AAS is implemented.

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