OIG Audit fails to recognize ADS-B’s role within NextGen system of systems when calculating return on investment
Statement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey
Arlington, Va. — The Department of Transportation Inspector General’s report on issues surrounding the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system fails to state the obvious, that the infrastructure necessary to implement ADS-B is on time, on budget and on the job. It is imperative that to improve our air transportation system and to enhance safety for future generations, the aviation industry, operators and government must all do their part to make NextGen a success.
NextGen and the critical step forward that ADS-B provides were designed as investments with both immediate and long term value. The system, though far from completed, is already delivering a more efficient and safe airspace environment in places like Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The long term return on investment will be seen for decades as America’s competitiveness and the safety of the flying public improve dramatically. This report fails to recognize the long term benefits and return on taxpayer investment that the initial results signal as being on track.
In addition, recent press reports have mischaracterized certain aspects of the OIG audit – particularly with respect to the number of ground stations. The idea that “coverage gaps” exist which could compromise safety and incur additional costs is totally inaccurate. In fact, FAA’s contract had a baseline requirement to provide defined coverage rather than a certain number of ground stations. The contractor has exceeded the coverage requirement while remaining well within the fixed-price contract. With the completion of that contract, new interest from stakeholders including states and the general aviation community, new requirements have arisen – thus increasing demand for ADS-B beyond the original contract.
I like comparing what we are accomplishing in the skies with the initial development of highways across America. We had to build the infrastructure before all of the progress and benefits of that highway system would ultimately be realized by the nation. But once we did, onramps connected local roads to superhighways, leading to further investments in infrastructure such as gas stations and restaurants, increased commerce and hiring, and other intangible benefits. It’s a similar situation with ADS-B and NextGen. ADS-B functions as one of the onramps to the superhighway of NextGen’s system of systems. When fully implemented, NextGen will reduce flight delays, invigorate the economy, maintain our global aviation leadership, generate jobs, save fuel, reduce CO2 emissions and, most importantly, improve system-wide safety for passengers and crew.
There is no turning back on improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Its success is critical to millions of Americans and it must not be jeopardized prematurely by unfairly condemning one element of the system before that system is fully realized. The Inspector General's audit report title itself identifies the crux of the problem, that full ADS-B benefits are limited due to delays in user equipage. As more users equip with the necessary advanced avionics, the benefits of the system will become more apparent.