Audit Reports

October 12, 2010

FAA Faces Significant Risks in Implementing the Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast Program and Realizing Benefits

Project ID: AV-2011-002


On October 12, 2010, we issued our report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) program.  ADS-B is a satellite-based surveillance technology that FAA expects will fundamentally change the way air traffic is managed in the National Airspace System.  At the request of the Chairmen of the House Committee on Transportation Infrastructure and Subcommittee on Aviation, we examined key risks to FAA’s successful implementation of ADS-B and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of FAA’s contracting approach.

FAA is making progress in implementing ADS-B at limited locations and working with airspace users to refine the use of the new technology.  However, we identified risks in five areas that will impact the cost, schedule, and expected benefits of ADS-B:  equipage, new requirements and controller/pilot procedures, frequency congestion with ADS-B broadcasts, integration with air traffic management systems, and potential security vulnerabilities.  In addition, risks with FAA’s contract approach could increase the overall program cost.  For example, FAA has not updated its cost-benefit analysis to ensure it is pursuing the most cost effective way to implement ADS-B. Moreover, the contract’s structure “bundles” costs for various ADS-B services, making it difficult for decision makers to track them. FAA will be challenged to address contract issues without the right skill mix but has not yet assessed staffing gaps or actions needed to ensure it can effectively oversee the contractor once the ground system is complete and being used to manage air traffic.

We made nine recommendations to help FAA reduce risk with ADS-B implementation and enhance contract oversight. FAA concurred with seven recommendations and partially concurred with two.  FAA proposed acceptable actions for all nine recommendations.