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May 2006 News


Sec'y Mineta Talks NexGen to World Travel & Tourism Leaders

Sec'y Mineta Talks NexGen to World Travel & Tourism Leaders

(Washington, DC, April 11, 2006) Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta brought the Next Generation System initiative to the world stage today - that is the World Travel & Tourism Council's annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit. This highly prestigious event brings together the CEOs and chairpersons of the world's foremost travel and tourism businesses, cabinet ministers, senior government officials and policy makers, and influential journalists from around the world.

And what message did the Secretary bring to this preeminent international gathering of 800 government and industry leaders? "I see the NextGen initiative as having greater implications for the travel, tourism, and commerce than any transportation project undertaken by the United States government since creation of the Interstate Highway System," Secretary Mineta concluded.

After discussing the deregulation of international aviation markets through open skies agreements, the DOT Secretary then connected the dots, observing that "as aviation markets liberalize, more people travel."

Indeed, the World Travel and Tourism Council's latest forecast calls for the industry to grow an average of 4.2 percent a year over the next decade. "So the pressure is on for us to find a way to make sure that our transportation systems, particularly aviation, keep pace." Secretary Mineta said.

The statistics and forecasts are daunting. World air carriers transported 1.9 billion passengers in 2004, up 11.6 percent; signs point to continued strong growth. In the United States alone, we are on track for more than one billion passengers flying in our skies by 2015. And looking even further down the road, we are anticipating a doubling to tripling of demand over the next 20 years.

That is significantly more traffic than our current air transportation system was designed for and more than our airspace has the capacity to handle using current ground-based systems. That is why the Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative was launched.

Secretary Mineta told the summit that, "New technology has the potential to transform the way that America and the world flies. And here in the United States, the NextGen initiative is bringing all available public- and private-sector resources to bring that transformation about in a deliberate and focused way."

Leaders at the forum were particularly interested in how the Next Generation System fits into the larger global picture and its effect on world travel and tourism. The Secretary did not disappoint. "While this is an American initiative, we are taking a global perspective. Creating a modernized system that provides for borderless interoperability could serve as a tremendous boost to the aviation industry fueling new efficiencies and consumer benefits that directly affect travel and tourism."

Secretary Mineta spoke directly to the tangible benefits that the Next Generation System would generate: "Imagine how much more attractive travel will be in a future with virtually no flight delays - where pilots can choose the most direct route around weather and congestion, saving hours of time and millions of gallons of jet fuel."

The Secretary Mineta also addressed the broader capacity issue: "Imagine a future with more aircraft transporting more people safely through the system at the same time, because innovations in technology enable more efficient use of airspace and airports. That is the future that we're building through the NextGen initiative."

And he didn't duck the so-called hassle factor that can discourage international travel and tourism to the U.S. and hinted on improvements in the Next Generation System: "Imagine a future where travelers don't have to endure the indignities of security lines, wandings, and pat downs because airport security is woven into the system's design, not overlaid on top on an ad hoc basis."

Indeed. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security - a NGATS partner agency - told the summit earlier in the day: "We very much want a system that encourages secure, safe but welcoming travel and trade all over the world...Americans lose when we put up walls, when we keep people out who are good people who want to work, study and play in the United States."
And the following day, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke about how to make entry into America faster while also trying to make it friendlier and still secure: "With generous help from our private partners, we are taking steps to improve customer service for foreign travelers in America's airports. The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are introducing a pilot model airport program. This project will allow us to try out new ideas, like customized video messages and friendly airport greeters that will help foreign travelers to navigate our border entry process in a more respectful way."
Striking the themes of partnership and collaborations that have been a hallmark of the Next Generation System from its inception, Secretary Mineta wrapped up his speech with an invitation, "We want and encourage input from the travel and tourism industry as we move forward on this exciting initiative...The challenges ahead are complex, and I look forward to working with you to make sure that this great industry can keep the welcome mat out."

The Secretary's remarks were warmly received and recognized and supported in later panel discussions such as the one on "Moving Around the World: the New Dynamics of Travel" led by Alex Christou, Accenture's Managing Director, Transportation and Travel Services Practice. Clearly, the Next Generation System is moving onto the larger world stage. Welcome!

Click Here for Secretary Mineta's full remarks.

Click Here for Secretary Chertoff's full remarks.

Click Here for Secretary Rice's full remarks.

JPDO and NGATS Testify on Capitol Hill

JPDO and NGATS Testify on Capitol Hill

The JPDO and the Next Generation Air Transportation System were center stage on an oversight hearing on March 30th before the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that examined the accomplishments to date and challenges that remain in building the future air transportation system. And the verdict? Very positive. Clear progress has been made in the design and development of the NGATS and the JPDO is on the right track. However, concerns were raised over adequate funding and continued agency collaboration on the initiative.

Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX), who chaired the hearing, said in his opening statement, "Designing a new air transportation management system is an enormously complex and expensive task, thus it's vitally important that the JPDO effectively manage this program to ensure it will earn continuing support and resources from its member agencies." Ranking Member Mark Udall (D-CO) added, "The nation's air transportation system is a vital part of our economy, and we need to ensure that it can accommodate future demand."

The panel of expert witnesses was led by Jeffrey N. Shane, Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy, who said that the Next Generation System initiative is "unprecedented it its scope, complexity and the challenges it will face. Our vision of this system is one that encompasses the whole air travel experience - from the moment the passenger arrives at the departure airport to his or her exit from the destination." While noting that the project will require years of hard work and unparalleled coordination among the many federal agencies and stakeholders involved, the Undersecretary was upbeat about the future. "The process has now begun in earnest, however, and by aligning our resources and activities through the JPDO, I am confident we will succeed," he concluded. (The full text of the witnesses statements can be found at:

Acting JPDO Director Robert Pearce provided the subcommittee with a snapshot of the key areas where the JPDO can make significant progress in the coming year and contribute to the transformation process, such as the work of the IPTs and the forthcoming Enterprise Architecture and Concepts of Use and Operations. Mr. Pearce was also optimistic about the ultimate success of the NGATS. "Indeed, I see 2006 as a breakthrough year for the Next Generation System initiative and the JPDO. All of the initial hard work is starting to pay off and we must now sustain the momentum generated in 2005," he concluded.

Dr. Lisa Porter, NASA Associate Administrator of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), told the subcommittee that the agency is "committed to working with our partners at the Joint Planning and Development Office to provide the high-quality research and technical excellence required to develop the NGATS." She noted that the ARMD has worked closely with the JPDO during the past several months to ensure proper alignment of its research plans with the needs of the Next Generation System. Highlighting a theme voiced by other witnesses, Dr. Porter said that "it is imperative that the JPDO remains focused on close cooperation at all levels."

David A. Dobbs, DOT Assistant Inspector General for Aviation and Special Program Audits "found that progress has been made with the JPDO since the office was established two years ago." However he cautioned that considerable work remains to align JPDO partner agency budget and plans.

Dr. Gerald L. Dillingham, Director of GAO's Physical Infrastructure Issues also found much to like saying that the "JPDO has gotten off to a positive start" pointing to many of the best practices it is employing such as reviewing member agencies R&D to make sure it supports the NGATS vision. He too observed that "leveraging resources will continue to be critical to JPDO's success, particularly in future years as partner agencies begin to implement projects on a larger scale."

NGATS Institute's First Public Meeting
"There's No Going Back Now!"

The NGATS Institute announces new
IPT members!
Click here for the list!

The NGATS Institute held its inaugural public meeting on March 28th in conjunction with the Air Traffic Control Association's Annual FAA Budget Conference. Following a briefing by JPDO Acting Director Robert Pearce and Institute Director Stephen Fisher, a panel made up of Institute Management Council (IMC) members and JPDO senior staff took on the big question: "What are the significant challenges that lie ahead?"

Captain Duane E. Woerth, Air Line Pilots Association President and IMC Co-Chairman thought that adequate congressional funding was the most pressing need but Congress needs to see "what the future will look like and what it will cost...and what's required and how soon." He added that "there's no going back now" and that the ground-based systems will not be funded into the future. "We're running out of time," he concluded.

JPDO Acting Director Pearce argued that we need an "adequate technical definition of what NGATS is, including cost, so that we can take the next aggressive step." He also thought that in order to "really drive forward," all of the changes in work force and culture, flight standards, certification and rulemaking need to be thoroughly understood. The other challenge, according to Mr. Pearce, is how to "maintain real program control over an initiative this large" given the way the JPDO is currently organized and how to manage this large portfolio of programs without losing the critical path to transformation.

Aerospace Industries Association President and IMC Council member John W. Douglass pointed to a number of different challenges. First and foremost, he said, "was keeping our perspective .... Sometimes when you embark on a complex task like this, it's real easy to get wrapped around the chain." He argued that "we've come a long, long way" since the Aerospace Commission report. Second, Mr. Douglass said that it is also important to carry the NGATS message to members of both political parties and to the new Administration following the 2008 elections. Third, "we need to remember that this is an episodic thing. This isn't something we do every two years." Fourth, he said that we should not "get fixated like deer in headlights by the cost" of the initiative but that it is important to get a best cost estimate to Congress in a reasonable time lest they "lose faith and we lose once again the momentum we gained." Lastly, Mr. Douglass argued that the FAA must settle on "how they will govern this in the long-term."

Deborah C. McElroy, IMC Member and Regional Airlines Association President thought the biggest challenge is to "keep focused and ensure that we retain credibility." She went on to say that the members of the IMC recognize that although they have differences, "however, that doesn't mean we can't remain focused on why we all committed to ensuring that JPDO works...We have to take this wonderful opportunity and enhance the system." Ms. McElroy also thought that "keeping our credibility" will be a challenge as will be making sure that everyone can participate in this process.

JPDO Communications Karl Grundmann pointed to the importance and challenge of getting the NGATS message out to a "broader community." He went on to say that the "American public needs to be educated about what the critical issues are" and what the effects would be if we do not go forward with transformation. The JPDO Communications Director said that his organization would next try to reach stakeholders whose core business "is not air transportation but relies on air transportation" such as the travel and tourism industry.

JPDO Acting Deputy Director Peggy Gervasi called for a robust cost and benefit analysis for the NGATS system that goes beyond the government side to include the entire community. She said that this data would help support the "tough policy and technological issues" as well as to help buttress congressional support and buy-in from the user community. "It is not going to be easy but it is something that we're prepared to tackle and look forward to tackling," Ms. Gervasi concluded. Additionally, she said that once the cost benefit case is in hand, the challenge will be to get the agencies to abandon the traditional system-by-system benefit case to justify an investment so they can see the overall benefits in the Next Generation System.

Lastly, Agile Air Traffic System IPT Director Doug Arbuckle put what he saw as the biggest challenge in the form of a question, "What is the incentive for the regulatory authority to transform?" Specifically, he wondered how does one get all of "these great ideas we have about transforming the system into actual operational service." He saw this as far more difficult than the NGATS technological hurdles - "a big, big deal that will challenge any organization." Mr. Arbuckle was also concerned that the current national aviation research infrastructure may not be able to handle in an expedited manner many of the issues and questions that are coming out of the NGATS.

The Next Generation Air Transportation System: Think Globally, Act Locally

NGATS Institute's First Public Meeting "There's No Going Back Now!"

DOT Under Secretary for Policy Shane calls air transportation as "the circulatory system of the economy."

Mention "Government" and the Next Generation System and it would be fair to say that many people would think of either the JPDO partner federal agencies and departments, or Congress, which wrote the enabling VISION 100 Act. But not so fast. State and local governments are also playing a major role in the initiative. Because when you think about it, that's where the rubber meets the tarmac in today's and tomorrow's system.

Governors, mayors, state legislators - even city councils - have traditionally been strong advocates of a robust transportation infrastructure. And although this includes highways, roads and rail, it has also come increasingly to mean aviation. Indeed, DOT Under Secretary for Policy Jeffrey Shane described air transportation as "the circulatory system of the economy."

These state and local officials see a lot of "value added" in air transportation in their states and communities with an enormous economic return on investment - as much as 11 to one. There is of course job creation - both direct and indirect. A physical facility such as an airport not only employs many people, but can also generate jobs for those who supply it and those in the travel and tourism industry, for example. But aviation can also improve the quality of life for many smaller and rural communities across the United States that now have little air service.

That's one reason there was so much interest in last year's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) demonstration project in Danville, VA. that was conducted by JPDO partner agencies NASA and FAA. Currently, there are more than 5,400 under-used rural or suburban airports and 98 percent of the population lives within 30 minutes of one. Unfortunately, many of these airports lack control towers or radar which limits their use.

But that's where SATS and other NGATS enabling technology come in. They will help provide the cockpit technologies, such as digital data links, GPS, synthetic displays of terrain and onboard conflict detection, needed to make smaller aircraft and smaller airports more accessible to more people, thereby taking the pressure off busy airports while conveying other benefits to the community, such as delivering service where there was little or none before.

Given the importance of state and local governments to the Next Generation System initiative, the JPDO has made a special effort to reach out to this important group of stakeholders. The Aerospace States Association, made up of Lieutenant Governors and Governor-appointed delegates, became one of the initiative's earliest champions passing a resolution in early 2004 supporting the building of the NGATS. Since then, JPDO representatives have made a point of briefing key state legislators in places such as Virginia and Indiana. And the response has been enthusiastic.

This is a two-way street as the case may be. And we want to call upon their expertise and experience as we work to build the Next Generation System. The Airport IPT has made a special point of reaching out to this special group, including the National Governors Association, to get their perspectives on key issues such as congestion, delays and environmental concerns and how to get the most long-term value and use from a major investment. At the JPDO, we often talk about improving curb to curb service and we never forget where those curbs are located.

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