The FAA's $2.3 Billion lemon
For 18 years, the Federal Aviation Administration has been trying to modernize its air traffic control system. In 1996, the agency authorized $2.3 billion for the project, known as the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS). The FAA received an additonal $438 million for implementing the new program.
If you loved the rollout of Obamacare, you're going to love the FAA's bug ridden, unstable, and potentially dangerous STARS program.
The Washington Times:
The Federal Aviation Administration has begun deploying a new computer system for its air traffic controllers despite warnings that the software suffers from unstable requirements, lacks key safety capabilities and requires training that has yet to be given to workers, a government watchdog warned Monday.
The problems with the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) are so widespread right now that the new system already being installed at the Dallas airport actually has fewer capabilities for air traffic controllers than the old software it was designed to replace, the Transportation Department’s inspector general reported.
One of the missing capabilities is a special warning that alerts controllers of loss of separation between aircraft, a potential safety hazard, the IG said. Officials are scrambling for an upgrade this month to fix that problem.
“The STARS deployment incorporates fewer capabilities than [the system] it aims to replace,” the inspector general wrote in a stark memo made public Monday.
What's that? The 35 year old system STARS is replacing is better than the new one? What's up with that?
“It’s the age-old problem with the FAA,” said Mary Schiavo, herself a former Department of Transportation inspector general. “They rely pretty much entirely on the contractors. They keep changing the parameters, and they have to keep changing them, because it’s gone on so long that new things keep getting developed.”
The warnings Monday are the latest for the troublesome STARS system. The IG recently raised red flags about STARS’ implementation back in a May 2013 report, warning the new system was in danger of falling “short of providing promised capabilities for controlling takeoffs and landings — the most critical phases of flight.”
Exactly the same problems with healthcare.gov. HHS kept changing the parameters of the website and what they wanted it to do, causing mass confusion with contractors and bureaucrats alike.
However, the STARS system has faced problems since the contract was signed in 1996, when Ms. Schiavo was the department’s top watchdog.
“We issued warnings then,” she said. “It has taken so long to implement that the computer code they [initially wrote] has [had] to be updated so many times that they never got the bugs out.”
They have tried to implement the system in Dallas and the IG reported "As a result of this examination, we determined that the risks we identified in our earlier report remain,” the IG reported. “Notably, FAA has yet to stabilize STARS software requirements.”
The skies don't sound quite as friendly as they did before I read this story.