ATM Modernization, Business & GA, Commercial

Expected Chairman Criticizes NextGen Effort

By | December 2, 2010
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The incoming chairman-apparent of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee promised “rigorous oversight” of the NextGen air-traffic modernization effort following a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that faults FAA’s goal-setting process.

Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) is expected to assume the committee chairmanship next year in the Republican-controlled House. He will succeed Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who was defeated in the November midterm elections.

Mica reacted Wednesday to a 9-page progress report by GAO on FAA’s current implementation and long-term planning of NextGen programs.

The report, signed by Gerald L. Dillingham, GAO director of Physical Infrastructure Issues, found that FAA “has generally identified” near and mid-term NextGen capabilities, but has yet to make “key decisions” regarding long-term capabilities. It faults FAA and the cabinet-level Senior Policy Committee overseeing NextGen for not setting performance goals and metrics.

The report also faults FAA for failing to provide a “business case” that would convince airlines to equip with the necessary avionics.

“In terms of supporting a business case for operators to equip with the necessary avionics, FAA has yet to develop a strategy to address this issue,” the report states. “Two key decisions are whether all scheduled aircraft need to be equipped at all locations and when aircraft should be equipped with various technologies. In addition, although FAA has established a working group to explore best-equipped, best-served focus areas, it has yet to make any specific decisions about how it will put its best-equipped, best-served policy into practice.”

According to Mica, FAA’s “failure to set clear goals and make necessary decisions jeopardizes this complex, critical air transportation modernization effort and threatens to waste taxpayers’ money. FAA cannot effectively work toward NextGen with a partially developed plan and risk the United States’ international position as a leader in aviation.

“If I am chairman of the Committee in the next Congress, I plan to conduct rigorous oversight of the NextGen program and hold FAA accountable for taking the steps necessary to ensure its success.”

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