ATM Modernization

FAA NextGen Spending Increase Included in Omnibus Bill

The newly completed fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill includes an $18 billion budget, including staffing for 14,500 air traffic controllers. Pictured here is the San Francisco Airport Control Tower. Photo courtesy of the FAA

The newly completed fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill includes an $18 billion budget for the FAA, a $1.6 billion spending increase above the agency’s fiscal year 2017 funding. Included in the FAA’s new budget is $1.3 billion dedicated to NextGen National Airspace System (NAS) modernization investments. That is an increase of $239 million above funding dedicated to NextGen for fiscal year 2017.

Although the FAA has not yet outlined where the increased NextGen spending would be allocated, if omnibus is signed into law, the agency did face some recent criticism from the the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT OIG) about how it has been managing NextGen developmental funding. According to the OIG report published March 6, the FAA has received $7 billion in congressional appropriations for NextGen funding since 2008.

The OIG performed an audit focusing on how the FAA uses project level agreements (PLAs) to manage spending around NextGen developmental projects. Selecting specific PLAs that align with the agency’s high-priority NextGen decisions has been flawed, the report said.

“While we found that the process for selecting and justifying projects is generally driven by the Agency’s NextGen plans at a very high level, 12 of the 22 PLAs we sampled did not tie to FAA’s high-priority investment decision points,” the report said.

OIG also notes that five of the PLAs it sampled were directed toward support activities, such as upgrades to NextGen testing labs. Auditors also tracked PLA deliverables dating back to 2013 and found that as many as 640 PLA deliverables were missing from the FAA’s Office of NextGen database. These missing deliverables included a a plan for testing the use of virtual tower technology valued at $2.5 million, confirmation of software for the NextGen Weather Processor valued at $3.2 million and certification approvals for aircraft equipping with FAA’s new surveillance technology, the ADS-B system, valued at $3.9 million.

Lawmakers revealed the omnibus bill Thursday, and it is in the Senate's hands for approval. The presidential administration already expressed support for the new legislation.

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