FAA's Management and Maintenance of Air Traffic Control Facilities
On December 15, 2008, we issued our audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) management and maintenance of air traffic control facilities. FAA has invested billions of dollars in new equipment for handling higher levels of air traffic in more complex airspace. However, the facilities that house those systems are aging and showing signs of deteriorating physical conditions. We conducted this audit at the request of the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who expressed concerns about the overall state of FAA facilities. The objectives of our audit were to determine if FAA has (1) developed and implemented a comprehensive strategy to effectively manage the replacement, repair, and modernization of its air traffic control facilities and (2) allocated sufficient funds to carry out those activities. We found that many air traffic control facilities have exceeded their useful lives. While the average facility has an expected useful life of approximately 25 to 30 years, 59 percent of FAA facilities are over 30 years old. FAA is encountering maintenance problems at several facilities due to its previous, decentralized approach to facility maintenance and its lack of a structured process for funding recurring maintenance. FAA has historically focused on addressing maintenance problems as they arose, but it is beginning to move toward a proactive approach that merges facility–level priorities with better national oversight. However, FAA’s new processes still focus on sustaining the existing system, and FAA must work to ensure it has a system of facilities well–equipped for the long term. Our recommendations focus on the actions FAA needs to take to maintain its existing air traffic control facilities and effectively transition to NextGen. They include (1) determining what types of facilities will be needed, how many facilities will be needed, and where they should be located to effectively support NextGen; (2) identifying target dates for realigning or consolidating facilities; and (3) establishing realistic funding requirements for maintaining existing sites until those dates.