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FAA Needs To Strengthen Its Management Controls Over the Use and Oversight of NextGen Developmental

Requested by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee Transportation and Infrastructure and its Aviation Subcommittee

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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 modernizing the National Airspace System. This includes over $1.7 billion for NextGen developmental projects. FAA manages these projects through the project level agreements (PLAs)—an internal control mechanism for documenting the agreed-upon work and managing project execution. The House Committee on Appropriations directed our office to examine how these investments are 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 projects that 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 justifying developmental projects, but the Agency has lacked effective management controls in its PLA process. For example, 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. Furthermore, a lengthy PLA approval process led to FAA often funding projects without approved PLAs and contributed to difficulty obligating funds to developmental projects. FAA had 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 use PLAs. 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. Finally, FAA has lacked a clearly established framework for managing the overall oversight of developmental projects and addressing persistent problems.

Our Recommendations

We provided six recommendations to improve FAA’s management and oversight of NextGen developmental funding. FAA concurred with two, partially concurred with one, and non-concurred with three recommendations. We are requesting that FAA reconsider its responses for these three recommendations.


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