Surprise! The OIG finds serious faults with STARS, but is the Inspector a Nattering Nabob of Negativity?

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The DoT Office of the Inspector General is a very expert organization. It is charged with overseeing the DoT modes and through that work has established some expertise in analyzing programs, especially the FAA’s NextGen. The below article is highly critical of one of the most important programs, Standard Terminal Automation Replacement Systems. While it is probably spot on, why does every OIG report find fault?

After thorough review and careful analysis of the STARS installation at the DFW TRACON, the OIG Report is most damning, to wit:

· The STARS software requirements have yet to be stabilized, where site specific changes will be needed or when they will be implemented.

· The program has significant risks as to cost overruns and implementation delays.

· The training and certification programs are inadequate for site specific application.

· Loss of separation warnings are not part of the STARS set of functions

· These uncertainties and deficiencies may put the NextGen benefits at risk, a major blow.

Clearly, it is difficult, if not impossible to question these very critical findings given the focus and attention which the OIG has given.

This is a screen shot of all the OIG reports posted (screen shot taken 08/18/2014 at 1pm):

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The titles of every report includes words like “weaknesses”, “lacks”, “deficiencies”, “barriers”, “not effectively”, “needed” or “inadequate” in the conclusion summary. Review of those OIG findings either suggests that every aspect of the FAA may be inept or that the OIG has a tendency to find fault or some combination of both. The credibility of the OIG, certainly within the FAA staff, might increase if these oversight reports were to include some positive commentary.

It sounds like STARS has its problems, but is that determination influenced by an institutional tendency to criticize. Pointing out the Congress’ sequestration impacts on the FAA, changing definition of needs from the users and a contrarian position of the unions, to name a few, might reflect some of the FAA’s reality, might convert some of the stakeholders into useful participants and admonish the legislators to establish a solid, unswerving strategy.

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