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Letter to the Idaho Congressional Delegation Regarding the Review of FAA’s Business Case for Moving Terminal Radar Approach Control Services from Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake City, Utah

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On June 30, 2010, we issued our response to the Idaho Congressional Delegation, which requested that we review FAA’s business case for moving terminal radar approach control (TRACON) services from Boise to Salt Lake City.  Senators Crapo and Risch and Representatives Simpson and Minnick cited concerns over the lack of transparency that FAA provided with regard to estimated costs for the transfer. 

Our review found that while FAA had a process to evaluate the estimated costs and savings associated with the move, FAA’s business case was flawed and did lack transparency.  Specifically: (1) FAA’s business case did not reflect changes in key assumptions that drove the projected $24 million savings in the original business case for moving TRACON operations, (2) FAA’s basis for facility lifecycle costs may have been unrealistic, and (3) FAA’s cost estimates of the option to keep the TRACON in Boise were questionable. 

On June 11, 2010, FAA officials informed us that they had cancelled the planned transfer of staff and service from Boise to Salt Lake City.  Given FAA’s decision, we are making no recommendations at this time.  However, we identified lessons learned to help improve the soundness and overall transparency of future business cases.  These include:  establish a reasonable timeline for automatic/periodic reassessments of business cases, improve coordination between FAA Headquarters and air traffic control facilities in the field, and keep affected employees involved and informed.