NextGen Experiences Delays and Increased Costs as Budget Cuts Loom

Oct. 6, 2011
WASHINGTON D.C., 6 Oct. 2011.Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation issues at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, delivered a statement yesterday on the progress of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Several projects in NextGen are now suffering delays and increased costs as the program faces potential budget cuts.
Posted by Skyler FrinkWASHINGTON D.C., 6 Oct. 2011. Several projects for the Next Greneration Air Transportation System (NextGen), including En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), are being delayed, having their costs increased, or both as the program faces budget cuts due to slow implementation, Dr. Gerald Dillingham said in a statement to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation yesterday. The total projected cost for the program is currently $375 million more than previously anticipated. NextGen, which has been under planning and development since 2003, is currently implementing near-term (through 2012) and mid-term (through 2018) capabilities. Congress has raised concerns over the slow progress in both deploying systems and producing benefits. "Going forward, the FAA must focus on delivering systems and capabilities in a timely fashion to maintain its credibility with industry stakeholders, whose adoption of key technologies is crucial to NextGen's success," Dillingham said. Dillingham believes the benefits of NextGen will be significant if it is adopted by the industry quickly, though he fears that slow implementation will harm potential benefits.
The current delays, primarily the over three year delay for the ERAM system, may cause further delays in NextGen's implementation. As an integrated system, many of NextGen's component systems are mutually dependent on one another. For example, ERAM is critical to the delivery of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B).These delays have affected the FAA's capital budget planning. "The Administration has proposed reducing the FAA's capital budget by a total of $2.8 billion, or 20 percent, for fiscal years 2012 through 2015," Dillingham said. "Most of this proposed reduction is on NextGen and NextGen-related spending." The NextGen system, when implemented, will feature satellite-based surveillance rather than ground-based radar. It will also use performance-based navigation rather than step-by-step procedures; replace voice communications with data transmissions and organize the disjointed data that pilots, airlines, airports and others rely on to operate the system.

While the budget for 2012 has not yet been drawn up, Dillingham hopes the FAA will keep NextGen on track and that stakeholders will show faith in the new system and adopt it soon after it is finished.

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