Key IT programs get FAA boost

Department of Transportation

Key information technology programs of the Federal Aviation Administration received a boost in the President's 2005 budget request, even though the Transportation Department's overall IT spending decreased from 2004 levels.

Of the $57.4 billion Transportation budget requested by President Bush, about $2.78 billion would be slated for information technology. This figure is a decrease from DOT's fiscal 2004 IT budget of $2.83 billion.

Within the new budget, a few major programs of the FAA were earmarked for increases in spending.

The FAA's Telecommunications Infrastructure program, a 15-year effort designed to integrate older systems into a single telecommunications network, would increase from $102.7 million in 2004 up to a requested $174.3 million for 2005.

A second high-profile FAA program, the En Route Automation Program, jumped from $185.4 million in 2004 up to a requested $264.3 million for 2005. ERAM is designed to replace hardware and software systems that have monitored high-altitude aircraft through the National Airspace System for more than 30 years. Scheduled for deployment in 27 facilities by 2010, ERAM has an estimated total cost of $2.1 billion.

Three other FAA programs, the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, the Wide Area Augmentation System and the Integrated Terminal Weather System, remained almost even with 2004 levels, though the three programs were grouped together in an altered budget plan.

In addition to the separate figures given to each program, a lump sum of $228 million was contained within the budget to supplement these three programs. After totaling over $311 million combined in 2004, the three systems received approximately $313 million for fiscal 2005.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta mentioned STARS as a key feature in the department's airspace modernization program and stated that plans are underway to expand the STARS program to 14 additional airports. The technology is designed to modernize the nation's air traffic control facilities.

One key program, the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures system, faces a decline in spending. Designed to replace existing FAA systems responsible for the separation of aircraft over the oceans, ATOP would receive $119.7 million in 2005, down from its 2004 level of $139 million.

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