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FAA Poorly Managed NextGen Funding
FAA Poorly Managed NextGen Funding
By AVweb Staff | March 11, 2018
A new report this month from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
says the Federal Aviation Administration lacked effective management
controls over the “project level agreements (PLAs)—an internal control
mechanism for documenting the agreed-upon work and managing project
execution” for the Next Generation Air Transportation System
(NextGen). This program was implemented to meet the FAA’s goals of
modernizing the National Airspace System.
The report looks at how the agency managed the more than $7 billion
per year that has been appropriated since 2008 for that purpose. The
House Committee on Appropriations directed the OIG “to examine how
those investments were managed and what outcomes have been achieved to
improve the Nation’s air transportation system.”
The OIG says the audit objectives were to assess the FAA’s procedures
for selecting and justifying projects that received funding and
overseeing the projects. Their findings were that the agency has
lacked effective management controls in its PLA process. Some of their
The FAA had not defined which types of projects are eligible for
developmental work and lacked standard operating procedures for PLAs
until 2016, eight years after beginning to use PLAs.
The FAA’s Office of NextGen also had not effectively executed and
measured the outcomes of NextGen developmental projects, including
tracking expenditures by PLA and obtaining deliverables for PLA
Finally, the FAA has lacked a clearly established framework for
managing the overall oversight of developmental projects and
addressing persistent problems.
The report offered six recommendations and the FAA has responded. Part
of the issue stems from lack of leadership at the top of the FAA.
“There have been 13 confirmed or acting heads of the FAA since the
precursor of NextGen was proposed as the Advanced Automation System in
1983,” The Washington Post reported last week, and the agency has been
without its top leader since Administrator Michael P. Huerta stepped
down in January.
Your tax dollar at work.
Posted by: April Talmadge | March 12, 2018 10:36 AM Report this
"had not effectively executed and measured the outcomes of NextGen
It doesn't matter if it's worth it or not because it's just a heck of
a lot of fun to spend other people's money. This is especially true
when doing so means you get to play with shiny new computers and other
Posted by: Ken Keen | March 12, 2018 10:59 AM Report this comment
"... lack of leadership at the top of the FAA." Heck, I've been
'spewing' that for YEARS !!! I'm surprised that the forum pavilion
didn't float away from hot air lift when the 'Meet the Boss' forums
occurred at Airventure. In all my adult life, I've never heard more
bull than during those presentations.
Oh well ... at least I'm now compliant ... sure hope they don't cancel
the whole idea, though.
Posted by: Larry Stencel | March 12, 2018 11:12 AM Report this
Since reporters won't ask the mighty FAA (NextGen) the big question I
will over and over and over;
"What is the model air traffic plan for thousands of drones and
aircraft in the same airspace?"
Cities around the world are planning Air UBER and pizza delivery at
low altitude among very large buildings and towers. My first encounter
with the NextGen team made it quite obvious that they had no plan. The
many airshow encounters I've had with them over the years, their
answer to everything is a colorful flyer and the website. I spoke with
a number of aviation reporters and asked them to explain the future
air traffic solution and they told me to read the website.
So, the future of air traffic control is so complicated that only a
NextGen website can explain it. It can't be explained to a pilot
verbally. Can anybody out there find the answer in the all informative
website and put it in laymen terms?
Posted by: Klaus Marx | March 12, 2018 12:29 PM Report this comment
NextGen is a complete boondoggle, ostensibly perpetrated by Boeing
lobbyists who have a satellite-based system that they have deployed in
many nations worldwide. NextGen proposes to replace FAA radar sites,
that verify the TRUE location of aircraft by bouncing radio signals
off of them, with a space-based satellite communications system that
relies on GPS equipment aboard the aircraft to report their alleged
Satellite signals are weak and subject to being overwhelmed by strong
ground-based radio signals potentially perpetrated by malicious
entities. Further, satellite signals are subject to disruption by
solar coronal mass ejections, and the entire space-based satellite
system introduces a whole host of potential hazards and weakens the
world's premier air traffic control system.
Hat's off to those in the FAA who have delayed progress on the NextGen
Posted by: Larry Dighera | March 12, 2018 12:41 PM Report this
Modernization of U.S. Airspace
[Photograph: Woman passenger sitting on a seat in a plane
This is NextGen]
The Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, is the
FAA-led modernization of America's air transportation system to make
flying even safer, more efficient, and more predictable.
NextGen is not one technology, product, or goal. The term NextGen
encompasses dozens of innovative, new technologies that are being
developed and implemented after thorough testing for safety. Through
research, innovation, and collaboration, NextGen is setting standards
around the world and further establishing the FAA's global leadership
NextGen News Stories
ADS-B in Commercial Aviation
Learn how ADS-B gives controllers more accurate and more frequent
aircraft surveillance information than radar.
ADS-B in Commercial Aviation
How NextGen Works
As the steward of America's airspace, the FAA is committed to ensuring
that we have the safest, most efficient airspace system possible today
and for generations of air travelers to come.
Learn how NextGen is working
Where We Are Now
NextGen is about halfway through a multi-year investment and
implementation plan. The FAA plans to keep rolling out NextGen
technologies, procedures, and policies that benefit passengers, the
aviation industry, and the environment through 2025/2030 and beyond.
Learn about new technologies
NextGen Near You
Learn more about NextGen projects across the country and how you can
get involved in discussions about the evolution of the U.S. air
Get involved with your community
Measuring Operational Results From Nextgen
Integrating NextGen capabilities to transform the National Airspace
System (NAS) is a complex effort that requires the FAA to continuously
measure and report our progress. This website highlights qualitative
and quantitative NextGen performance measures, focusing on locations
where NextGen capabilities enhance airspace performance and
emphasizing the link between investments and benefits.
Performance Success Stories
A Five-Year Success Story
NPS at a Glance
NextGen Airport Performance Metrics Poster
NextGen City Pair Performance Metrics Poster
NextGen Metroplexes Poster
NextGen National Airspace System Performance Poster
NextGen Portfolios Poster
NextGen Performance Success Stories Poster
NextGen Reference Guide Poster
NextGen Priorities Poster
The NPS is the FAA's only tool to view performance metrics for
capabilities, technologies, and procedures implemented through the
FAA's modernization effort known as NextGen.
Launched five years ago, the NPS tool has grown to eight sections
including metrics, timelines, success stories, and a reference guide.
The NTSB modeled its new goal-tracking platform on the NPS
September 2017 –
Launched a half-decade ago, the NextGen Performance Snapshots, or NPS,
provides the FAA's only tool to view performance metrics for
capabilities, technologies, and procedures put into place across the
country through the FAA's modernization effort known as NextGen. Now
five years later, the NPS is bigger, better and emulated by other
government agencies for reporting needs.
The site was born out of a 2010 Government Accounting Office report
that stated the FAA should identify the performance metrics best
suited to measure progress of the modernization effort and mandated
the FAA establish a method for reporting this data.
Tony Diana, Ph.D., an FAA operational research analyst, the site's
creator and original division manager for the NPS team, said the web
was a natural choice to communicate NextGen performance information.
"As a website, you can communicate to all the stakeholders and be
transparent as to the progress NextGen is making," he said.
The team was challenged to create the NPS reporting tool in just a few
months. Diana and his team learned in December 2011 of the task to
begin reporting on NextGen the following March. But the effort was not
"When we started, some capabilities were implemented and others were
about to be implemented, and the results were not measurable
immediately," said Diana. "Sometimes we have capabilities that bring
some benefits but at specific times of day, not throughout the day. So
that's the challenge with measurement," he added.
The sheer volume of information available from various lines of
business within the FAA and partners such as MITRE also posed a
challenge for the team to ensure everyone was speaking the same
language, measuring the same metrics, and defining performance the
Rich Golden, current contract support for the NPS and one of the
original NPS team members, said the team laid much of the groundwork
ahead of the request to create the site. "Prior to us being told to do
this, we were already working with the [FAA] metrics harmonization
group to determine how and what metrics to use," he said. "Once they
got agency-wide agreement on metrics, we started to move forward."
When the NPS debuted in March 2012, the site focused on metrics from
the FAA-defined Core-30 airports, safety data and success stories —
which break down NextGen technologies and their impacts in layman's
terms. Over the years, the NPS has gone through several evolutions.
"We've adapted based on feedback we've heard from throughout the
agency," said Stephen Moskowitz, a management and program analyst for
the NPS who joined the team just before the site's launch five years
"The NPS team has maintained the ability to be as agile as needed in
order to transition with our ever-changing environment," said acting
NextGen Performance Division manager Lisa D. Williams. This
flexibility has allowed the NPS to grow and adapt to the needs of its
audience. In its current form, the NPS features the following focus
Airports Pages – Feature metrics for the FAA-designated Core-30
airports including average daily capacity, taxi-in and -out time, and
effective gate-to-gate time, and more. This section also features
detailed analysis of NextGen capabilities at key locations and
timelines showing dates of NextGen implementations.
Portfolios Pages – Provide a visual depiction of where NextGen
capabilities are in place across the country, organized by FAA NextGen
Priorities Pages – Feature a timeline of priority implementations as
agreed upon between the FAA and the NextGen Advisory Committee. A
completions history page shows where these capabilities and
technologies have been completed by quarter and calendar year.
Metroplex Pages – Through the Metroplex program, the FAA is working to
improve regional air traffic movement over major metropolitan areas.
Information includes projected fuel, money, and carbon savings, as
well as average daily metroplex traffic and average daily scheduled
City Pairs Pages – Metrics track flight-time variations between
airports in major metropolitan areas. Metrics include airborne
distance, effective gate-to-gate time and predictability, and airborne
time between locations.
NAS-wide Pages – Show the impact of NextGen technologies across the
country in terms of fuel burn and environment metrics, as well as
access to general aviation airports.
Success Stories – Highlight how NextGen technologies and procedures
are benefitting airports, airlines and the flying public at locations
across the country.
Reference Guide – Documents the methodology used to calculate the
metrics featured across the NPS.
NPS content is updated throughout the year. Some material is updated
annually while other information is updated as needed or as soon as
capabilities are implemented. Diana says the NPS tool has been well
received and is respected by those who depend on the information
provided by the site. Visitors to the NPS include airlines,
congressional staffers, the Government Accountability Office, the
Office of the Inspector General, internal FAA staff, and others
interested in tracking where NextGen capabilities have been
implemented and performance metrics associated with NextGen
technologies and procedures.
The FAA's partner agency, the National Transportation Safety Board,
has also taken note of the NPS. The NTSB is now using a similar
platform based on the design of the NPS Priorities section to track
achievements toward its strategic goals. The agency is also planning
to utilize success stories similar to the NPS to inform the public
about progress made in transportation as a result of NTSB
Going forward, the NPS team is considering adding new components to
help users more easily identify NextGen impact in specific geographic
View More Success Stories
FAA Needs To Strengthen Its
Management Controls Over the Use and
Oversight of NextGen Developmental
Report No. AV2018030
FAA Needs To Strengthen Its Management Controls Over the Use
and Oversight of NextGen Developmental Funding
Requested by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee
and its Aviation Subcommittee
Federal Aviation Administration
What We Looked At
Since fiscal year 2008,
Congress has appropriated over $7 billion for the Federal Aviation
Administration’s (FAA) Next Generation
Air Transportation System (NextGen) to meet FAA’s goals of
the National Airspace System
.. This includes over $1.7 billion for NextGen developmental
projects. FAA manages these projects through the project level
trol mechanism for documenting the agreed-upon work and
managing project execution
.. T he
House Committee on Appropriations directed our office to examine how
managed and what outcomes have been achieved to improve the Nation’s
air transportation system.
Accordingly, our audit objectives were to assess FAA’s procedures for
(1) selecting and justifying
received developmental funding
and (2) overseeing the execution and measuring the
outcomes of projects.
We also reviewed
FAA’s overall oversight framework for these areas.
What We Found
FAA’s annual budget process provides broad controls for selecting and
but the Agency has lacked effective management controls in its PLA
.. For exam
of the 22 PLAs we sampled did not align with FAA’s high
-priority NextGen investment decisions,
primarily because they were for support or implementation work.
a lengthy PLA
approval process led to FAA often funding
projects without approved PLAs and contributed to
difficulty obligating funds to developmental projects.
not defined which types of projects are
eligible for developmental work
and lacked standard operating procedures for PLAs until 2016,
8 years after beginning to us
FAA’s Office of NextGen also had not effectively executed and
measured the outcomes of NextGen developmental projects,
including tracking expenditures by PLA
and obtaining deliverables for PLA projects. F
inally, FAA has lacked a clearly established
managing the overall oversight of developmental projects and
addressing persistent problems.
six recommendations to improve FAA’s management and oversight of
FAA concurred with t
, partially concurred with one, and non-concurred
with three recommendations.
We are requesting that FAA reconsider its responses for these
All OIG audit reports are available on our website at www.oig.dot.gov
For inquiries about this report, please contact our Office of
Legal, Legislative, and External Affairs at
Results in Brief
FAA Has a Process To Manage the Selection and Justification of NextGen
Developmental Projects but
Needs To Strengthen Its Management
FAA’s Execution and Measurement of Outcomes for NextGen
Developmental Projects Need
FAA Has Taken Steps To Improve Oversight of NextGen Developmental
Projects but Still Lacks an Effective Framework for Oversight
Agency Comments and OIG Response
Scope and Methodology
Organizations Visited or Contacted
Sampled Project Level Agreements (Fiscal Years 2009
OIG Analysis of Hotline Complaints and FAA Internal Review
Draft Report Results
List of Acronyms
Major Contributors to This Report
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
6 , 2018
FAA Needs To Strengthen Its Management Controls Over the Use and
Oversight of NextGen Developmental Funding
Matthew E. Hampton
Assistant Inspector General
Federal Aviation Administrator
Since fiscal year 2008, Congress has appropriated over $7 billion for
Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Next Generation Air Transportation
(NextGen) to meet FAA’s goals of modernizing and transforming the
Airspace System (NAS). This includes over $1.7 billion for NextGen
projects, funded through the Facilities and Equipment (F&E) account,
referred to as the capital account.
These projects are part of a process of
developing, testing, and demonstrating that FAA uses to li
mit risks when
evaluating new air traffic management concepts. FAA manages these
through the use of Project Level Agreements (PLAs)
—an internal control
mechanism for documenting the agreed upon work between the Office of
NextGen and the organization performing the work (e.g., the Air
) and for managing project execution to ensure that projects
remain within their approved scope and budget.
We received several hotline complaints with documents alleging serious
abuse related to FAA’s management of NextGen developmental
funds. In addition, the House Committee on Appropriations directed our
examine how these investments are managed and what specific outcomes
been achieved to improve the Nation’s air
our audit objectives were to assess FAA’s procedures for (1) selecting
justifying projects that received developmental funding, and (2)
The Facilities and Equipment account contains five separate budget
activities to further identify the purpose of the
funding. The over $1.7 billion represents funding for Engineering,
, Test and Evaluation included under
FAA’s budget activity one.
House Report 114-
129, May 27, 2015.
execution and measuring the outcomes of projects. As part of our
audit, we also
reviewed FAA’s overall oversight framework for these areas.
To conduct our work, we performed detailed analyses of a random sample
out of 343 PLAs (6 percent) approved during fiscal years 2009 to 2015,
covering each of FAA’s 11 port
folios and valued at approximately $195 million, or
12 percent of approximately $1.7 billion. We also analyzed FAA’s
records and related program documents. The results of our sample
allowed us to make projections on the number, per
centage, and initial value of
PLAs that were noncompliant with internal procedures.
We conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted Government
auditing standards. Exhibit A contains further details on our scope
methodology, exhibit B lists
the organizations we visited or contacted, and
exhibit C provides a list and description of PLAs sampled.
We appreciate the courtesies and cooperation of FAA
representatives during this
audit. If you have any questions concerning this report, please call
, Assistant Inspector General for
, at (202)
DOT Audit Liaison, M
FAA Audit Liaison, AAE
We selected a statistical sample of
22 PLAs that
a wide range of project types, including demonstration
projects and enhancements to existing air traffic systems
Results in Brief
FAA’s annual budget process provides broad controls for selecting and
justifying developmental projects, but the Agency has lacked effective
management controls in its PLA process, which is intended to further
refine project scopes and justifications after
For example, while we found that the process for selecting and
is generally driven by NextGen plans, 12 of the 22
PLAs we sampled did not align
with FAA’s high-
priority NextGen investment decisions, primarily because they
were for support or implementation work.
As a result, it is unclear why FAA
selected these as developmental projects. FAA has also not defined
of projects are eligible for developmental funding. Furthermore, due
to a lengthy
s, FAA often funded projects
without approved PLAs. Specifically, FAA
provided funds prior to PLA approval about 3
2 percent of the time over a 5
period, and based on our statistical sample we projected that the
obligated an estimated $3
70 million to projects prior to final approval.
addition, FAA has also had difficulty obligating funds to
with available funds exceeding $500 million for most years. These
occurred in part because the Agency lacked effect
ive planning and final standard
operating procedures for the PLA process until 2016, 8
years after beginning to
use PLAs. As a result, while FAA had controls in place for aligning
budgetary requirements, it did not have controls to ensure that
properly scoped and funds were targeted to the highest priority
FAA’s Office of NextGen has not effectively executed and measured the
outcomes of NextGen developmental projects.
For example, prior to fiscal year 2015, FAA’s Office of NextGen did
adequate processes for tracking expenditures by PLA
—an important internal
control to oversee how the Agency spent project funds. Further, the
NextGen used more than $130 million over a 6
-year period to cover
ministrative and general program support costs without a formal
Although FAA allows the use of funding for support costs, based on our
sample we projected that FAA spent $58
million in excess of the amount FAA
usually assessed for th
In addition, FAA’s Office of NextGen has not
Supporting activities address safety, environmental and energy
considerations and infrastructure.
million estimate has a precision of +/
million at the 90
-percent confidence level.
Our $58 million estimate has a precision of +/
-$36 million at the 90-percent confidence level.
effectively tracked and obtained deliverables for PLA projects.
From our sample
of 22 PLAs, we identified 9
PLAs with deliverables that were late or missing.
one point in 2013, FAA identified
deliverables valued at $109 million missing
from the Office of NextGen. Although FAA took action to recover
remained missing or late
, covering a 6
occurred in part because FAA had not established effective tools to
managers track PLA deliverables.
FAA also does not evaluate whether a project
met its intended goals for advancing NextGen during the project close-
process. As a result, FAA’s Office of NextGen lacks important
information to make
ns on whether or not to continue funding projects; thus, FAA risks
requesting funds for projects that may no longer be needed.
FAA has also lacked a clearly established framework for
managing the overall oversight of NextGen developmental
projects and addr
essing persistent problems.
Past efforts to provide oversight of PLAs have been ineffective due to
factors, including lack of
stability, organizational changes that resulted
in unclear roles and responsibilities, lack of involvement fro
m key managers
and lack of accountability from top senior officials to address key
found in the PLA process.
In addition, although FAA has performed internal
reviews of the process, these efforts received only mixed support from
management, were not finalized, or
failed to resolve key issues. For example,
although FAA stated that it addressed recommendatio
ns from a 2012 internal
review, including improving timeframes for developing PLAs, our work
lengthy timeframes for approval
—often in excess of 100 days
issue. In addition, several boards and groups
established to provide high-
oversight of NextGen have either had limited review of developmental
been disbanded. For example, FAA ended an executive stakeholders’
established specifically as a governance mechanism for developmental
2016 after only three meetings. This lack of stability has limited the
of FAA’s management and oversight of developmental projects.
Key deliverables are acquired to advance NextGen operational concepts
and prepare capabilities for acquisition (e.g.,
technical reports or analyses).
Missing deliverables could mean that t
he Office of NextGen did not receive the deliverables via the Agency’s
information sharing database, deliverables were overdue, or were
considered no longer needed. Contractual
deliverables and contract administration is handled outside of the PLA
Of the 119 missing or late deliverables
, 61 are from the original 640.
To better track deliverables, FAA has been working to improve its
In 2016, FAA established procedures for a new PLA scoping meeting to
include a wider group of Agency officials.
The former Associate Administrator for NextGen began to address
problems with the PLA process in 2015.
We recognize in our report improvements made by FAA during the course
audit, and are providing six recommendations to
management and oversight of NextGen developmental funding.
NextGen is a multibillion
-dollar transportation infrastructure project aimed at
modernizing our Nation’s aging air traffic system. FAA’s NextGen pre-
implementation (developmental) projects are intended to explore new
and evaluate alternative solutions to current issues in the NAS, thus
uncertainty and risks associated with NextGen programs. According to
-implementation (developmental) activity would be to mature (i.e.,
further develop) operational requirements, based on known shortfalls,
a final investment decision.
FAA funds NextGen developmental work using Research, Engineering, and
Development (RE&D) and F&E funds. As shown in figure 1, FAA has
considerable amount of development
al work in the F&E capital account. Figure 1
shows trends in funding and planned investments through 2022.
Figure 1. Past and Planned F&E (Activity 1) NextGen Developmental
Funding for F
iscal Years 2008 to 2022 (in millions)
ource: FAA’s budget data from fiscal years 2008 to 2018 and estimates
2022. This represents developmental funds controlled by the Office of
and Activity 1 funds managed by other FAA lines of busines
8, to manage the integration of NextGen systems and capabilities
FAA lines of business, the Agency established the NextGen Integration
Office within the ATO. In 2008, this office began managing
developmental projects through the use of PLAs. See figure 2 for a
roadmap of FAA’s PLA process from scoping to execution.
Figure 2. FAA’s PLA Process
Source: OIG analysis of FAA’s October 2016 PLA Standard Operating
In 2011, FAA moved the NextGen organization out of the ATO and
the Office of NextGen, which began to focus on portfolio management to
establish a more integrated approach to NextGen. Currently, there are
a total of
11 NextGen portfolios, including 3 with supporting activities.
implementation work is represented across these portfolios. As of
2015, FAA had signed 343 PLAs for pre-implementation activities,
valued at $1.7
In a typical year, the Office of NextGen sponsors
consist of eight portfolios for developing and deploying new
capabilities and three portfolios
with supporting activities addressing safety, environmental and energy
, and infrastructure.
Has a Process To Manage the Selection and
Justification of NextGen Developmental Projects
but Needs To Strengthen Its Management Controls
FAA has established broad controls for selecting and justifying
projects, but the Agency has lacked effective management controls in
process, which is intended to further refine project scopes and
Specifically, although FAA relies on the budget process
for selecting and justifying developmental projects, FAA’s PLA project
not driven solely by high
-priority NextGen investments. FAA has also not clearly
defined which projects are eligible
for funding or established a clear process for
involving key stakeholders in funding decisions. In addition, FAA
funded projects prior to approving their final scopes and budgets due
in part to
lengthy PLA approval times and a lack of a formal policies and
Despite FAA’s practice of funding PLAs before securing their approval,
Agency has had difficulty obligating developmental funds.
FAA Relies on the Capital Budget Process
To Select and Justify Developmental
FAA selects and justifies developmental projects through its capital
budget process, where program officials submit requests for funding
s concerning cost, schedule, and anticipated qualitative or
quantitative benefits. Budgets are submitted 2
years in advance of the year FAA
begins to execute the projects (see figure 3).
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