Audit Reports

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FAA Needs to Improve ASDE-X Management Controls to Address Cost Growth, Schedule Delays, and Safety Risks

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On October 31, 2007, we issued our audit of Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Airport Surface Detection Equipment-Model X (ASDE-X) program. FAA is developing ASDE-X to aid air traffic controllers in preventing ground collisions on the airport surface and reducing runway incursions. FAA also intended for ASDE-X to improve airport safety by operating in all-weather conditions. ASDE-X has undergone significant changes since its inception in October 2000. ASDE-X was originally intended as a low-cost alternative to FAA's existing airport surface surveillance technology. At the time, FAA's deployment strategy focused on small- to medium-sized airports that had no surface surveillance technology. In September 2005, FAA made a major strategy shift, concluding that this would yield the greatest return on its investment and that the maximum safety benefits would be gained by deploying ASDE-X capabilities to airports with larger traffic counts or more complex operations. Our audit objectives were to determine (1) whether FAA's strategy for deploying ASDE-X for operational use is cost effective, given the changes in the program's deployment strategy, and (2) to what extent the ASDE-X program will reduce the risk of ground collisions or accidents caused by runway incursions. We found that the ASDE-X program is at risk of not meeting its cost and schedule goals to commission all 35 ASDE-X systems for $549.8 million by 2011 and may not achieve all planned safety benefits. To achieve ASDE-X program goals and effectively manage the program, FAA needs to (1) improve ASDE-X management controls to reduce the risks of further cost growth and schedule delays; (2) resolve operational performance issues with key ASDE-X safety capabilities planned to reduce the risk of ground collisions on intersecting runways and taxiways, including during inclement weather; and (3) work with airlines and airport officials to provide safety enhancements that were not included in the ASDE-X program re-baseline but are vital to reducing the risks of ground collisions caused by pilot and vehicle operator errors.