DOT IG Notes Technical Problems in FAA NextGen Programs

 - February 24, 2011, 9:45 AM

Last week, Department of Transportation Inspector General (IG) Calvin Scovel III, along with an MIT representative and an FAA vice president, gave separate testimony on NextGen status before the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics. The DOT IG reported continuing technical problems with the en route automation modernization (Eram) project, a nationwide upper airspace flight data and management system necessary for full National Airspace System introduction of ADS-B, DataComm and system-wide information management (Swim). Originally planned for all ARTCCs by late 2010 at a cost of $2.1 billion, Eram is now expected to enter service in 2014 with $500 million added cost. MIT professor John Hansman, who is also co-chair of the FAA’s R&D advisory committee, stated that the FAA plans and roadmaps for future research needs were so detailed and complex as to be almost impossible to use in evaluating key next steps in NextGen’s future critical path. These need to be rewritten, along with correcting serious shortfalls in the FAA’s internal staff competencies, he said. Meanwhile, FAA senior vice president for NextGen Victoria Cox reviewed several successful NextGen programs, but did not discuss remedial action in the areas covered by the IG and MIT’s Hansman.