New DOT IG Review Raises More Doubts about FAA’s NextGen
Washington, DC - The Department of Transportation Inspector General (IG) released a new assessment of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) efforts to modernize the air traffic control system under the over-budget and behind schedule NextGen program.
The IG examined the FAA’s NextGen business case: the agency’s high-level assessment of the potential benefits of NextGen air traffic control modernization programs and anticipated costs to the FAA and airspace users. (Click here to read the IG’s review.)
The assessment, requested by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), raises more serious questions about the usefulness and accuracy of the FAA’s document.
According to the IG’s review, the FAA has painted a rosy but unrealistic picture of NextGen implementation when it claims the frequently delayed modernization effort will provide $161 billion in benefits by 2030. The IG determined that the “FAA’s benefits estimate is overly optimistic given past experience with introducing new capabilities and the use of out-of-date schedules for some key projects [for NextGen implementation].
The IG also found that the “FAA’s business case does not communicate the range of uncertainty or complex factors associated with NextGen implementation to Congress, aviation stakeholders, or the traveling public, which limits the Agency’s ability to set realistic expectations for NextGen Benefits.”
“The Inspector General’s review reinforces what has become more and more obvious with every new study and report that comes out – the government’s continued promises and claims about NextGen benefits are not based in reality, but on a lot of smoke and mirrors,” said Chairman Shuster.
“The IG reaffirms what many of us already knew: the FAA has been unable to deliver on the promises made with NextGen implementation, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in cost overruns. With the impact on our economy and the jobs our aviation system supports, we can no longer accept marginal improvements in modernization of the system that yield few benefits to traveling Americans,” said Chairman LoBiondo.
Shuster continued, “Taxpayers and the traveling public are being forced to dump billions and billions of dollars into wasteful modernization plans that are clearly never going to produce what the government promised. Recent NextGen ‘successes’ claimed by the FAA are simply overblown incremental improvements at best, used to disguise the fact that over the years the agency has continually moved the goalposts on NextGen in order to improve the optics of its poor performance. Although supporters of the status quo continue to take whatever claims the FAA has made as gospel, thorough independent reviews, such as the Inspector General’s latest, make it clearer by the day that NextGen is a bill of goods sold to the taxpayers.”
“The majority of the aviation system is just as antiquated as it has been for years. And it will only get worse as the number of passengers approaches one billion per year in the next decade. We cannot and should not continue pursuing such a costly modernization program based upon wildly optimistic, overly aggressive, and in some cases just plan misleading assumptions. The time to reform and streamline the delivery of ATC services and technology modernization is now,” Shuster concluded.
It is fundamentally impossible for a federal bureaucracy to manage and modernize a high-tech service like air traffic control in a sound, businesslike manner that ensures the efficiency and continued safety of our system. That is why Congress needs to pass the bipartisan 21st Century AIRR Act (H.R. 2997) in September, bring an end to decades of wasteful spending, and save billions of dollars for the taxpayer.