Federal Aviation Administration: Actions Needed To Achieve Mid-Term NextGen Goals

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On March 18, 2009, the Inspector General testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation regarding FAA actions needed to achieve near– and mid–term goals for NextGen. The Inspector General stated that FAA has an important opportunity to strategically position the system for a rebound in air travel demand. After more than 4 years of planning, FAA must take a number of actions to advance the billion–dollar, multi–faceted NextGen effort. First, FAA must sustain the existing National Airspace System. This includes maintaining ground–based radars, navigation equipment, and aging facilities. FAA must make numerous critical decisions on existing systems over the next several years that will have significant budgetary implications and materially affect the pace of NextGen. It will also be important for FAA to focus on near–term efforts that can enhance the flow of air traffic even before NextGen is fully in place. These include new airport infrastructure projects, airspace redesign projects, and performance–based navigation initiatives (i.e., Area Navigation and Required Navigation Performance). In addition, FAA is focusing considerable attention on NextGen’s mid–term goals, targeted for 2018, but it has not reached consensus with stakeholders on how best to move forward, and fundamental issues remain to be addressed. To highlight transition issues and establish requirements, FAA must complete its ongoing “gap analysis” of the current and vastly different NextGen systems and refine the NextGen mid–term architecture. Finally, FAA needs to take a number of business and management actions to help shift from NextGen planning to mid–term implementation. These include (1) establishing priorities and Agency commitments with stakeholders and reflecting them in budget and plans; (2) managing NextGen initiatives as portfolios and establishing clear lines of responsibility, authority, accountability; (3) acquiring the necessary skill mix for managing and executing NextGen; and (4) examining what can reasonably be implemented in given time increments.