IG: FAA's bad projections costly

Poor cost estimating by the Federal Aviation Administration has delayed the deployment of a new weather system, according to a Transportation Department inspector general report released Dec. 20, 2002.

Consequently, unless the FAA secures additional funding for the rollout, the agency could field technologies that are less capable than their prototypes, Alexis Stefani, DOT's principal IG for auditing and evaluation, said in a memorandum.

The Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) is designed to help air traffic managers make better decisions in bad weather, reducing flight delays and diversions. This, in turn, will boost capacity, or get more planes in the air to meet passenger demand.

The FAA awarded a contract to Raytheon Co. for development and implementation of ITWS in 1997. Since then, production costs have tripled, increasing to $1.1 million per system, according to the report.

Already, the agency has spent $179.1 million of the $286.1 million it committed through fiscal 2008 for 38 systems. It now intends to extend the deployment schedule by almost five years, according to the report.

Currently, prototypes are operating in New York, Dallas, Memphis, Tenn., and Orlando, Fla. Air traffic managers have responded enthusiastically to the tool, particularly its 60-minute forecasting capability, according to the report.

However, the FAA intends to defer that capability in the production systems, which only provide 20-minute forecasts, at least until fiscal 2006. As a result, managers at New York and Dallas have asked to keep the prototypes, according to the report.

The IG has recommended that the agency reassess where and when to deploy the system, accelerate integration of the 60-minute forecasting capability, and update the program cost and schedule baseline to reflect any changes.

Officials from the FAA agreed with those results and findings and said that modifications to its strategy will be subject to the results of a data analysis, according to the report.

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