Audit Reports

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FAA's Progress and Challenges in Meeting FTI Transition Goals

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On September 30, 2008, we issued our follow–up audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) program. FTI is intended to replace seven FAA–owned and –leased telecommunications networks with a single network to reduce operating costs. We last reported in April 2006 that FTI was unlikely to meet its December 2007 completion date and that FAA needed to improve FTI management controls. The objectives of our follow–up review were to assess FAA’s progress in (1) developing a realistic master schedule and an effective FTI transition plan and (2) mitigating technical risks to ATC operations before activating FTI services and disconnecting existing telecommunications services (by coordinating activities and verifying site–specific requirements). We also examined FAA’s progress in responding to our April 2006 recommendations, including a recommendation that the Agency independently validate FTI cost and benefit estimates.

Since we last reported, FAA has made significant progress with FTI and has transitioned the largest and costliest network, which will help to control telecommunications costs. Notwithstanding this important progress, several areas remain critical watch items for decision makers as FAA moves forward with FTI. These include shifting service requirements, the extent to which expected cost savings will be realized, and efforts to mitigate risks to air traffic operations–all of which have impacted FAA’s ability to meet FTI’s original program goals. FAA will also need to consider the impact that the Next Generation Air Transportation System will have on future FTI requirements.

Our recommendations to FAA include: (1) reassessing prior network engineering cost growth that should have been associated with facilities and equipment funds, (2) documenting the planned schedule for transitioning three networks that FAA has decide to operate beyond the transition end date of December 2008 and new services that were identified but not included in the schedule during the last reporting period for FTI, (3) calculating how updates to the transition schedules for remaining network components will impact FTI’s life–cycle cost and benefits baselines, (4) conducting internal audits at facilities to ensure that FTI services are installed with adequate physical diversity, (5) developing an action plan to ensure FTI services meet contractual restoration and availability requirements, and (6) reviewing internal procedures to ensure all critical FTI–related outages resulting in air traffic control delays are included in reports to decision makers.