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FAA's NextGen could cost $160 billion

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Federal Aviation Administration-led efforts to modernize the nation's air traffic control system--an effort collectively dubbed NextGen--could cost four times as much as initially estimated.

Analysis commissioned by the NextGen Joint Planning and Development Office finds that implementing all of the capability envisioned by NextGen by 2025 could increase the program's costs from $40 billion to $160 billion, say the Government Accountability Office in a letter report dated Nov. 22.

Even if the highest NextGen performance levels were implemented over longer period ending in 2035, then the cost would still considerably more than $40 billion. As a result, the new JPDO director (Karlin Toner, who became director in February) "has committed to reexamining the long-term goals of NextGen in light of new realities in the economy and the aviation industry as well as the progress and results of NextGen implementation efforts to date," GAO authors state.

The FAA also continues to defer key implementation decisions, such as how to incentivize aircraft operators to install NextGen avionics equipment, the report adds. The FAA realizes its needs a strategy addressing whether all aircraft need to be equipped with NextGen avionics in all areas, but it has yet to make any specific decisions for a "best equipped, best served" policy, the GAO letter states.

For more:
- download the letter report, GAO-11-132R (.pdf)

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