Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from the FAA (and Lockheed)

I’m not real sure there is a significant difference between the FAA and Lockheed, et al. these days. At least the contractors seem to be running the show. Be that as it may, the taxpayers are still on the receiving end of this “gift”.

FAA May Need to Pay $500 Million More on Behind-Schedule Lockheed Project

Now, before we get into the meat of this article, let’s put our thinking caps on shall we? The first thing to notice (actually it’s the second but it’s the first thing they want you to notice) is the price tag -- $500 million. Nobody gets excited about 500 million when we talk in billions now and the Federal debt is approaching $14 trillion.

What really should have gotten our attention is the fact of when this story came out. The article was posted “Dec 23, 2010 4:12 PM ET”. That’s less than an hour before a lot of people went home for the holidays.

”Completing the En Route Automation Modernization project will take as many as six more years, compared with the original goal of finishing by the end of this year, Calvin Scovel, the department inspector general, wrote in a letter to lawmakers that was released today.”

As you can see, the report was released “today” -- December 23, 2010. You are free to make your assumptions. I’m going to assume the timing was deliberate. Moving on.

Six more years. That figure takes on a little more significance with some additional information. You have to go back to August and an article I posted from AINonline.

””The GAO noted that after limited simulation tests at the FAA Technical Center, the FAA formally accepted Eram from the contractor since the "equipment has performed to specification at all 20 sites." Unfortunately, ARTCC tests with real traffic were abandoned after more than 15,000 software issues arose, of which 1,400 are still unresolved, including 200 "critical" issues. Equally unfortunate, government acceptance means that the FAA will have to pay to fix every one of them, at a cost of $12 million per month, according to the DOT Inspector General.””

Twelve months in a year times $12 million a month times six years equals $864 million .

Keep reading, it doesn’t get any better.

”The ERAM project, which has cost $1.8 billion so far...”

”It was originally projected to cost $2.1 billion...”

Does anyone think the FAA will stay under $0.3 billion (2.1 - 1.8) for the next year -- much less the next 6 years?

If you’d like a glimpse at how ERAM is really doing, you can view the comments on my Facebook page. The system crashed at Seattle Center not long ago and took every radar scope with it. And it’s struggling at Salt Lake Center.

For those just joining us at Get the Flick there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) All of this is nothing new. It’s history repeating itself.

2) In air traffic control, you do not want the “latest, greatest” technology. You want the proven, safe and reliable technology. In other words, we don’t want the iPhone 4 (okay, I want one, “we” don’t) and the glitches that come with any new technology -- we want the old LG model (that my son randomly throws across the room to prove it’s indestructible.) And we want the old Western Electric model hard-wired into the wall for a backup. ATC isn’t supposed to be sexy. It’s supposed to be safe.

3) None of this is new.

Merry Christmas.

Don Brown
December 24, 2010

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