Transportation to audit ERAM

Department of Transportation

The Transportation Department's Office of the Inspector General will begin an audit this week of yet another costly project designed to modernize air traffic operations for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The $2.1 billion En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program is scheduled for deployment to 27 facilities by 2010. It is intended to replace the host computer hardware and software systems that have been used for more than 30 years to monitor high-altitude aircraft through the National Airspace System.

The new review comes on the heels of a Sept. 10 report from the inspector general that continued a trend of criticizing the FAA's major modernization programs for high costs and developmental delays.

Last week, an inspector general report questioned the feasibility of the FAA's Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, which has an acquisition cost of $1.69 billion and an estimated life cycle cost of over $6 billion.

During the summer, the inspector general's office also released a June 26 report that said the costs of the FAA's main acquisitions, including ERAM, have grown by more than $4.3 billion.

The FAA expects to spend more than $260 million annually on ERAM beginning in fiscal 2005.

David Dobbs, assistant inspector general at the Transportation Department, said in a release that the audit will "determine whether [the] FAA has a realistic and executable plan to provide a new en route automation system on time and within budget".

Dobbs also said that ERAM must be properly integrated with other modernization programs and control costs to ensure the program stays on schedule and within budget.

"There is little room for further cost growth and schedule slips with large FAA acquisitions," Dobbs said.

Other major FAA modernization systems include: the Wide Area Augmentation System, a satellite-based navigation system; the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System; and the Next Generation Air/Ground Communications program, which will replace existing air-to-ground communications with digital systems.


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