This week, I was part of a bipartisan group of leaders on the House Science Committee to call on the Administration to implement the recommendations in a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the challenges of creating a new U.S. air traffic control system, known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS).

We requested the GAO report in the spring of 2005 in an effort to examine the issues involved in the design and implementation of NGATS by the program's seven partner agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Commerce, and Homeland Security. Together, these agencies comprise the Joint Program Development Office (JPDO).

In the GAO's resulting report, titled Next Generation Air Transportation System: Progress and Challenges Associated with the Transformation of the National Airspace System, they recommended better coordination among the JPDO agencies.

Given the concerns GAO raises, I think that Congress will need to take a hard look at whether the JPDO as currently structured will have the authority and resources needed to successfully transform the nation's airspace system. The current air traffic control system is already running near capacity, so a smooth implementation of NGATS is vital to the FAA's ability to keep pace with the three-fold increase in air traffic that is expected over the next 20 years.

You can bet that the Science Committee will continue to follow this matter closely in the new Congress.

Read more about this issue and access a copy of the GAO report on the Science Committee Democrats' website.