Audit Reports

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

Project ID: 

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.




Closed on 09.08.2016
No. 1 to FAA

Accelerate efforts to establish requirements for ADS-B and certify cockpit displays for enhancing pilot situational awareness to improve operations at high-density airports.

Closed on 03.06.2019
No. 2 to FAA

Further quantify and validate controller productivity enhancements that can result from displaying ADS-B information on controller displays and the additional automation needed to maximize these ADS-B benefits.

Closed on 01.30.2014
No. 3 to FAA

Develop and fund a targeted human factors research effort for pilots and controllers for ADS-B In requirements (display and procedures) in order to prioritize efforts and examine the proper sequence for introducing new capabilities.

Closed on 11.27.2017
No. 4 to FAA

Work with the U.S. intelligence community to assess potential threats to the ADS-B system and ways to mitigate them.

Closed on 09.08.2016
No. 5 to FAA

Update the cost benefit analysis for the acquisition to ensure that FAA's plan is still appropriate before committing the additional funds for a nationwide deployment of the ADS-B ground infrastructure.

Closed on 09.08.2016
No. 6 to FAA

Clarify the use of ADS-B value-added services and reexamine assumptions about the ability of ITT to sell them in light of other planned NextGen efforts to greatly expand information sharing between FAA and stakeholders.

Closed on 09.08.2016
No. 7 to FAA

Specify the cost and schedule for providing ADS-B critical services to all en route and airport surface domains over the life of the contract.

Closed on 09.08.2016
No. 8 to FAA

Assess the technical readiness of ADS-R and any risks to its development and determine which locations will need ADS-R.

Closed on 11.03.2014
No. 9 to FAA

Determine and obtain the necessary in-house expertise to effectively monitor the contractor's efforts and oversee the ADS-B ground infrastructure over the long term.