FAA Modernization At What Cost?
The total cost of a NextGen system empowering pilots with satellite-based air traffic control information is expected by the FAA to cost up to $22 billion, but that figure may be very conservative. At least one analyst, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, forecasts that software development alone will push costs over $50 billion. Scovel aired his opinions during a House hearing on the FAA's 2009 proposed budget, and qualified them by saying that costs "remain uncertain." House Aviation Subcommittee members requested the FAA to review its figures and respond to Scovel's estimate. The FAA's current funding will expire Feb. 29, and the Bush administration's budget proposal for 2009 would offer a $688 million investment in NextGen technology. The first portion of infrastructure that will build the NextGen system came in the form of a $1.8 billion contract awarded in August to ITT. The work is expected to take 20 years to complete.