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Friday, April 27, 2012

DoT IG: Lack of Program Requirements Stalling NextGen

FAA has failed to provide adequate, finalized program requirements of the six transformational NextGen programs, which is causing concern over equipage and ultimately delaying the benefits of NextGen, according to a Department of Transportation Inspector General (DoT IG) report released this week.

The six transformational programs of NextGen -- Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), System Wide Information Management (SWIM), Data Communications (data comm), NextGen Network Enabled Weather (NNEW), NAS Voice Switch System (NVS), and Collaborative Air Traffic Management Technologies (CATM-T) –– are to provide the foundational technologies and infrastructure needed for NextGen.

According to the report, FAA, which has so far invested $1.5 billion in NextGen, has yet to establish total program costs, schedules or performance baselines for any of these six programs, opting instead for shorter, discrete segments in order to minimize risk in the short term. "However, having a reliable and comprehensive program baseline through its end-state is key to providing effective oversight of a program and avoiding the cost overruns, schedule delays and unmet expectations that FAA has experienced with past modernization efforts," according to the report. For example, FAA has not yet finalized requirements for displaying ADS-B In traffic information in the cockpit, for accelerating the initial delivery of DataComm services to air traffic control towers or for finalizing the agreement between the SWIM program office and other program offices implementing SWIM.

As a result of this lack of finalized requirements, FAA does not plan to start implementing the transformational programs' benefits until 2015 at the earliest. "Due to this lack of clarity ... airspace users are concerned about investing to equip aircraft with NextGen avionics for ADS-B and DataComm, two programs key to FAA's continued NextGen progress," the report states.

The report recommends the FAA:

-- Develop and set milestones for baselining each segment of the transformational programs through their end-state and identify the capabilities and benefits that will be delivered for each segment.

-- Define and finalize the transformational programs' NextGen requirements.

-- Synchronize program requirements between the Transformational Program Offices and NextGen Integration and Implementation Program Office to ensure agency NextGen goals are aligned with the transformational programs' plans and to avoid schedule delays.

-- Establish an integrated master schedule framework, policy and standard operating procedures that include the Segment Implementation Plan and the transformational programs, and a timeline for maturing this capability.

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