ATM Modernization, Commercial

Senate Proposes FAA Reauthorization With Key NextGen Requirements

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | March 10, 2016
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[Avionics Today 03-10-2016] On Wednesday, March 9, commerce leaders on the Senate transportation committee introduced the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016, which would reauthorize the FAA and related programs through the end of the federal government fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2017. Some key provisions within the proposed legislation would require the FAA to provide detailed return on investment and performance assessments associated with its NextGen air transportation system modernization project.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Photo: Houston Airport System.
Current federal fiscal year funding for the FAA is scheduled to expire March 31, 2016. The Senate's proposed reauthorization act would keep the current structure of the FAA in place, with no provisions designed to create a new non-profit corporation outside of the federal government responsible for managing and modernizing air traffic operations. 
Among the highlights in the Senate's proposed FAA extension legislation are several key provisions associated with the FAA's NextGen project. The proposed bill would provide authorization appropriations for FAA's research and development account of $166 million for fiscal year 2016 and $169 million for fiscal year 2017. There are also some specific requirements included in the proposed reauthorization, in which lawmakers are asking the FAA to provide detailed metrics regarding return on investment for federally mandated avionics equipage as well as several other NextGen-related reports. 
As part of the reauthorization legislation, the FAA would be required to submit a report to Congress providing an assessment of the overall NextGen portfolio. Moreover, the agency would be required to delineate how each NextGen program directly contributes to a more safe and efficient air traffic control system, and the return on investment dates and projected impacts of these programs for both the federal government and commercial users of the National Airspace System (NAS). 
One of the major NextGen provisions within the proposed bill is contained within Section 4105, for an assessment of the FAA's existing NextGen airspace mandate requiring all airspace users flying above 10,000 feet to equip their aircraft with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) avionics. The ADS-B Mandate Assessment would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General (DOT IG) to "assess both the FAA’s and industry’s readiness to meet the ADS-B mandate, changes made to the ADS-B program since May 2010, and additional options to comply with the mandate and consequences for both individual system users and for the overall safety and efficiency of the national airspace system for noncompliance," according to the text of the legislation released by the Senate commerce and transportation committee. 
DOT IG would then be required to submit a report to Congress on the ADS-B mandate assessment to include recommendations on the effective delivery and performance of the ADS-B mandate.
There is also a key requirement related to space-based ADS-B technology. Section 4102 of the Senate's proposed bill would require the FAA to ensure that its existing air traffic control system has the capability to receive space-based ADS-B data and that this data can be used to provide separation of aircraft over the oceans and other regions not covered by radar surveillance. 
"This section would also require the FAA to begin submitting a biannual report to Congress six months after the date of enactment detailing the actions the FAA has taken to ensure 2018 readiness and usage, what actions remain to be taken, an updated timeline for expected completion of each outstanding action, and a detailed description of the FAA’s investment decisions and requests for funding consistent with FAA’s existing terrestrial ADS-B implementation to ensure a sustained program beyond 2018. This report is required until the capability of the FAA to receive space-based ADS-B data is complete," the proposed bill states. 
Additionally, lawmakers are looking to require the FAA to identify and implement ways to better incorporate cybersecurity as a systems characteristic at all levels and phases of the architecture and design of air traffic control programs, including NextGen programs.

The Senate’s Aviation Operations, Safety, & Security Subcommittee are scheduled to formally consider the bill on Wednesday, March 16. 

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