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Sat, Jul 21, 2012

FAA Still Up In The Air Over Consolidated NJ ATC Facility

No Determination Has Been Made As To Where To Locate The Center

A report from the DOT Inspector General (IG) released Tuesday indicates that the FAA has not yet determined where it plans to locate a consolidated air traffic facility for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia corridor.

According to the IG's report the FAA operates 561 manned air traffic facilities nationwide, many of which are deteriorating and outdated, especially given the Agency’s ongoing modernization efforts through the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The DOT IG conducted a review at the request of the Chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and House Subcommittee on Aviation, and found that FAA recently approved an initial plan to consolidate air traffic facilities into large, integrated facilities over the next two decades—beginning with consolidating 49 facilities into an integrated facility for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia area, at an estimated cost of $2.3 billion.

However, the report says, the FAA has not yet decided where to build the first facility, nor developed metrics to measure the effectiveness of its plans. In addition, the IG found that the successful implementation of FAA’s plans will depend on addressing key challenges—such as aligning ongoing construction projects, making critical technical decisions, coordinating with NextGen offices, finalizing cost estimates, and addressing the impacts of consolidations on the workforce and affected communities.

The IG's report says that although FAA’s plans for large-scale realignments and consolidations are still evolving, the Agency must address key technical, financial, and workforce challenges to successfully implement the plan. First, FAA will need to align ongoing construction projects with the current plan since some projects overlap with the recently-approved consolidation plans, creating the potential for duplication of effort and waste of funds. Second, FAA will have to make key technical decisions related to areas such as airspace boundaries and automation platforms, which will have a significant impact on the costs and schedules of modernization programs. This will require coordination among FAA’s various modernization programs, including NextGen, which FAA has begun but not yet completed. Third, FAA will need to finalize cost estimates for individual integrated facility projects, given that the initial business case only provided preliminary cost data. Finally, FAA will have to address the wide-ranging impacts that facility consolidations will have on its workforce and affected communities. The IG's report says that while FAA is aware of these challenges, it is incumbent upon the Agency to mitigate them to the extent possible as its plans for large-scale consolidations evolve. As past consolidations have shown, not addressing these challenges poses risks to achieving expected benefits.

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