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Changes in Requirements and Schedule Delays Contributed to the Termination of the NAS Voice System Contract

Requested by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: 
AV2022016

What We Looked At
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) modernization of its National Airspace System (NAS) includes a plan to update the Agency’s aging voice switches with a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) system. In August 2012, FAA awarded a contract to the Harris Corporation (Harris) to provide the NAS Voice System (NVS), but in December 2018, FAA and Harris agreed to terminate the contract, and FAA still depends on outdated voice communication. In response to a request from the Ranking Members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation, we initiated this audit to assess (1) FAA’s reasons for terminating the NVS contract with Harris and NVS costs and expected benefits and (2) the information on NVS development that the Program Office provided to FAA management and Congress.

What We Found
Changes in requirements and schedule delays led to the contract’s termination, and expenditures achieved few benefits. FAA lacked confidence that Harris’s demonstration systems would support VoIP communication in a substantial portion of the NAS. However, the issues with Harris’s systems stemmed in part from changes in FAA’s requirements. Since the termination, FAA has identified reasons for the contract’s failure and lessons learned from the NVS program. FAA spent $160 million on NVS and will spend $274 million to sustain its legacy switches. These expenditures have achieved few benefits. FAA’s Contracting and Program Offices raised performance concerns but delayed taking action. According to FAA, Harris was trying to stabilize its demonstration system. Because FAA would incur little cost from these efforts, allowing Harris to continue made more sense than ending the contract. Finally, FAA did not inform Congress until after contract termination because program costs and schedule variances did not exceed the thresholds required for such notification. 

Recommendations
FAA concurred with our recommendation to improve the Agency’s future modernization efforts and provided appropriate actions and completion dates. We consider the recommendation resolved but open pending completion of planned actions.

 

Recommendations

Open

Closed

No. 1 to FAA

Finalize the report on the NVS contract failure and the program termination, and develop action items to address the failures and a plan for implementing them.