High costs afflict FAA air traffic control modernization

The Federal Aviation Administration still faces significant cost overruns, schedule delays and performance shortfalls with its multibillion-dollar air traffic control modernization program, the General Accounting Office said in a report released last month.

The report on the Transportation Department, which is part of GAO's series on "Major Management Challenges and Program Risks" at federal agencies, said Congress has appropriated more than $25 billion for the FAA's modernization program through fiscal 1998, and the FAA estimates it will need an additional $17 billion for fiscal 1999 through 2004. "Because of its size, complexity, cost and problem-plagued past, we have designated this program as a high-risk information technology initiative since 1995," GAO said in its report.

The FAA also faces challenges in making its computer systems ready for the Year 2000 computer bug. The agency is unlikely to complete all critical tests on time, and unresolved risks, including those associated with data exchanges and international coordination, threaten aviation operations, the report said.

Other challenges laid out in the report include a 20-year, $9.8 billion Coast Guard project to replace or modernize many of the Coast Guard's ships and aircraft. "We found that the Coast Guard needs to more thoroughly address the project's justification and affordability," GAO said. In addition, DOT's "lack of accountability for its financial activities impairs its ability to efficiently and effectively manage programs" and exposes DOT to potential mismanagement and waste, GAO said.

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