Federal Aviation Administration:

Stronger Architecture Program Needed to Guide Systems Modernization Efforts

GAO-05-266: Published: Apr 29, 2005. Publicly Released: May 31, 2005.

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The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) mission is to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic in the U.S. airspace system. To this end, FAA is modernizing its air traffic control systems, a multibillion dollar effort that GAO has designated as a high-risk program. GAO's research into the practices of successful public- and private-sector organizations has shown that developing and using an enterprise architecture, or blueprint, to guide and constrain systems investments is crucial to the success of such a modernization effort. GAO was asked to determine whether FAA has established effective processes for managing the development and implementation of an enterprise architecture.

FAA has two architecture projects--one for its National Airspace System (NAS) operations and one for its administrative and mission support activities--that together constitute its enterprise architecture program. However, it has established only a few of the management capabilities for effectively developing, maintaining, and implementing an architecture. For example, the agency reports that it has allocated adequate resources to the projects, and it has established project offices to be responsible for developing the architecture, designated a chief architect for each project, and released Version 5.0 of its NAS architecture. But the agency has yet to establish other key architecture management capabilities--such as designating a committee or group that represents the enterprise to direct, oversee, or approve the architecture, and establishing an architecture policy. FAA agreed that the agency needs an effective enterprise architecture program and stated that it plans to improve its management of both projects. For example, the agency intends to establish a steering committee; develop a policy that will govern the development, maintenance, and implementation of the architecture program; and have an approved architecture project management plan for the non-NAS architecture. GAO's experience in reviewing other agencies has shown that not having an effective enterprise architecture program can be attributed to, among other things, an absence of senior management understanding and support and cultural resistance to having and using one. It has also shown that attempting major systems modernization programs like FAA's without having and using an enterprise architecture often results in system implementations that are duplicative, are not well integrated, require costly rework to interface, and do not effectively optimize mission performance.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has focused first on developing and implementing its NAS architecture, and thus has made considerably more progress in developing its NAS enterprise architecture than it has in developing its non-NAS enterprise architecture. (See above and below recommendations).

    Recommendation: To ensure that FAA has the necessary agencywide context within which to make informed decisions about its air traffic control system and other systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the CIO focuses first on developing and implementing a NAS architecture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA's National Airspace System (NAS) enterprise architecture project has largely addressed the 31 core elements in our enterprise architecture management maturity framework. Among other things, FAA has established its Joint Resources Council (JRC) as the highest executive body for directing, overseeing, and approving its NAS enterprise architecture and updated its Acquisition Management Policy to require its information technology investments to comply with the architecture. In addition, FAA has a methodology (i.e., NAS EA framework) and plan for managing the NAS EA project. Moreover, FAA has executed the plan and methodology in developing a range of architecture products that describe the current and target NAS environments in terms of business, applications, performance, infrastructure, and security. Further, FAA has established key sequencing plans (e.g., NAS service roadmaps) that describe how the FAA will transition from its current to its target NAS environment. FAA has also used its NAS architecture to define its operational improvements (e.g., parallel runway operations) and align with the Joint Planning and Development Office's Next Generation Air Transportation System implementation plan.

    Recommendation: To ensure that FAA has the necessary agencywide context within which to make informed decisions about its air traffic control system and other systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the chief information officer (CIO), in collaboration with the chief operating officer, implements, for the NAS architecture project, the best practices involved in stages 2 through 5 of our enterprise architecture management maturity framework.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2006, the FAA's Acquisition Management System, which establishes policy and guidance for all aspects of lifecycle acquisition management for the FAA and is approved by the FAA Administrator, was updated to require FAA to develop and use an enterprise architecture.

    Recommendation: To ensure that FAA has the necessary agencywide context within which to make informed decisions about its air traffic control system and other systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to demonstrate institutional commitment to and support for developing and using an enterprise architecture by issuing a written and approved enterprise architecture policy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FAA's non-National Airspace System (NAS) enterprise architecture project has made limited progress in satisfying the 31 core elements in our enterprise architecture management maturity framework. Specifically, while FAA has established its Joint Resources Council (JRC) as the highest executive body for directing, overseeing, and approving its non-NAS enterprise architecture, and updated its Acquisition Management Policy to require the development and maintenance of the non-NAS enterprise architecture and to require its information technology investments to comply with the non-NAS enterprise architecture, it has not adequately addressed other core framework elements. For example, the agency has not completed its non-NAS enterprise architecture reference models (i.e., business, performance, data, service, and technical reference models). According to the FAA non-NAS enterprise architecture program plan, these reference models are expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2010. In addition, FAA has not completed non-NAS enterprise transition plan. While FAA has investment roadmaps for such non-NAS business areas as helpdesk and aviation safety, the basis for these roadmaps (e.g., a gap analysis of key differences between the as-is and to-be EA products) is not sufficiently described. FAA also has not developed sequencing plans for all administrative services and mission support activities (e.g., acquisition management).

    Recommendation: To ensure that FAA has the necessary agencywide context within which to make informed decisions about its air traffic control system and other systems modernization efforts, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that the CIO implements, for the non-NAS architecture project, the best practices involved in stages 2 through 5 of our enterprise architecture management maturity framework.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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