Mineta underscores STARS importance

Department of Transportation

A highly scrutinized billion-dollar air traffic control system is an integral part of the Transportation Department's airspace modernization plan, according to DOT Secretary Norman Mineta.

Mineta stated today that plans are under way at the Federal Aviation Administration to deploy the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System at 14 airports. The STARS technology has been deployed fully at only a handful of airports so far, including El Paso, Texas; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Philadelphia.

"If America wants to retain its global air transportation leadership, we need to modernize and transform our air transportation system -- starting right now," Mineta said.

The contract to develop and deploy the STARS technology was awarded to Raytheon Systems Co. in 1996. Since that time, the acquisition cost baseline has risen from $940 million to $1.69 billion.

Although the STARS program has received strong support from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the DOT's Inspector General called for a re-evaluation of the system because of high costs and developmental delays.

The IG released a report in September that was highly critical of the FAA for pushing the STARS completion date back to 2012 from its original plan of 2005. The report also stated that the estimated life cycle cost of STARS had risen from an original figure of $2.9 billion to approximately $6.1 billion.

The STARS technology was first deployed in June 2003 at the Philadelphia airport.

Mineta's plan also includes seven new air traffic control towers, five new terminal air traffic control facilities and advanced radar systems. Airports in four major cities -- Boston, Charlotte, Denver and Minneapolis -- will also install advanced weather satellite and radar systems intended to minimize weather-related delays.

"I've challenged my department to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote technology that will offer added capacity to relieve congestion, while supporting a strong commercial capability, facilitating private-sector expansion and creating jobs," Mineta said.

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