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Addressing Underlying Causes for NextGen Delays Will Require Sustained FAA Leadership and Action

Requested by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Its Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: 

Over the past 8 years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen)—a multibillion-dollar program intended to fundamentally transform the Nation’s air traffic system. FAA manages this transformation in part through its Enterprise Architecture (EA) plan—a key strategic planning tool that details the numerous integration and investment decisions required to advance NextGen. While FAA is making progress with elements of NextGen, our work continues to find longstanding problems with cost increases, schedule slips, and performance shortfalls. Accordingly, weconducted this audit to (1) determine FAA’s progress on key EA decisions related to achieving NextGen capabilities, (2) identify underlying causes for FAA’s delays in advancing NextGen, and (3) assess FAA’s recent reorganization to improve the management and execution of NextGen initiatives.

From January 2009 through May 2013, FAA made 157 key NextGen-related decisions in its EA. Despite this progress, some critical EA decisions have not been made. Overall, the EA’s usefulness as a strategic planning tool for NextGen has been limited due to incomplete information, a lack of policy and guidance, and unresolved NextGen design decisions. Longstanding programmatic and organizational challenges further undermine NextGen’s progress, including the lack of an executable plan, delays in fielding foundational air traffic management hardware and software, frequent changes in senior leadership, and an industry that remains reluctant to invest in NextGen. FAA’s recent reorganization may better position the Agency to meet its NextGen goals. However, it is too early to fully assess the reorganization’s effectiveness, in part because FAA has been slow to fill key leadership positions and best practices have yet to be captured or implemented.

We made six recommendations to FAA to provide greater visibility into critical NextGen decisions and to assist in achieving a successful reorganization. FAA concurred with four of our recommendations and partially concurred with two. Based on FAA’s response, we are requesting additional information for four recommendations.