FAA programs to face new audits

The Transportation Department's inspector general will audit two programs that have a major stake in the Federal Aviation Administration's effort to transform the nation's air transportation system. Both programs already have faced scrutiny from the IG this year.

David Dobbs, the assistant inspector general for aviation audits, announced plans Dec. 2 to review the FAA's Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) and terminal automation replacement programs.

ATOP will gather, manage and show oceanic air traffic data on computer displays used by air traffic controllers. It will replace a system that relies on paper strips to track aircraft and that lacks direct radio communication with pilots.

Since 1995, the FAA has spent more than $233 million on oceanic automation efforts, IG Kenneth Mead said in April. In June 2001, the agency awarded a $217 million fixed-price contract to Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management to provide systems in Anchorage, Alaska, New York and Oakland, Calif. -- the control centers responsible for traffic crossing the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. The latter is slated for operations in 2003.

Mead's office will again evaluate the agency's management of ATOP with respect to cost, schedule and performance, focusing on its delivery to Oakland.

The terminal automation replacement program consists of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) and an interim step, the Common Automated Radar Terminal System.

STARS will swap aging equipment for new color displays, processors and computer software at air traffic control facilities. The long-delayed and over-budget program, which is being installed and developed by Raytheon Co., took heat in June from Mead for unresolved problems.

Despite that criticism, the FAA switched the system on at Philadelphia International Airport last month.

Mead's office will now assess whether the agency's terminal modernization strategy is reasonable and cost-effective.

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