Modernized Radar System Could Cost An Additional $500 Million
In a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, DOT IG Calvin Scovel said that the FAA has already spent $1.8 billion of its $2.1 billion budget for the radar-based system designed to track high-altitude flights. When the system was tested in Salt Lake City in March of last year, the program’s projected roll-out date of December 2010 was shelved because the tests discovered more that 200 issues with ERAM. Now, Scovel says that the FAA “is … spending almost $15 million a month to field the system. FAA originally planned to spend $131 million in fiscal year 2011 but now estimates that it will require an additional $70 million this year to correct problems with ERAM. Yet, this is a “down payment” – not the cost to complete the program as originally planned. Delays in implementing ERAM will force FAA to sustain aging equipment longer than planned and retrain controllers so they are familiar with both the legacy and ERAM systems.”
Scovel says in his letter that the ERAM delays will have a cascading effect on NextGen. “For example, of the eight currently identified NextGen portfolios, ERAM is a critical component of five of them, including collaborative air traffic management and automation needed to support aircraft separation. Further, our analysis of FAA’s transformational programs shows critical interdependencies between ERAM and three other transformational programs – two of which have already been allocated more than $500 million to integrate and align with ERAM.”
Scovel says that a great deal of work remains to be done before NextGen can be implemented. “Unless FAA effectively addresses RTCA’s recommendations and resolves problems with ERAM, its ability to meet mid-term goals for NextGen and safeguard taxpayers’ investment remains uncertain.” He also says that the current problems with ERAM are “disconcerting” since the system passed testing at FAA’s Technical Center and achieved Government acceptance.