Q&A with Nathan Tash: FAA Keeping Pace with Technology of Tomorrow


Recently, at the ATCA 64th Annual Conference, FAA leaders came together with industry to discuss the National Air Space (NAS), which is faced with the growth of new entrants and the need for improved air traffic management solutions. With the burst of innovation that is occurring in the industry, the burning question was how would the FAA keep pace, specifically as it relates to procurement.

Nathan Tash, Chief Acquisition Officer for the FAA, was a panel moderator for “The Pace of Innovation: How Can NAS Benefit from Technology Accelerators and New Procurement Strategies” at the event and he offered his thoughts in this ATCA Bulletin:

How can the FAA better keep pace with the technology of tomorrow?

Nathan Tash: The FAA is in a unique position to keep pace because of our AMS (Acquisition Management System). We can find savings and synergy behind the lifecycle of an acquisition, from concept and requirements definition through the investment analysis phase. We have the ability to figure out what we can do to speed up the requirements and investment analysis to implement solutions faster.

How can industry help the FAA with acquisition and procurement?

Tash: Keep the communication open – the AMS allows communication with industry throughout the process, so call if you feel we’re not listening. A mutual understanding of the requirements between FAA and industry is crucial to the success of the AMS. We need to work together to maximize competition. It’s not about the number of vendors – it’s about how robust and innovative proposals are.

How would you like to see the acquisition process change with these emerging new entrant technologies?

Tash: Our entire acquisition lifecycle management process needs to work together more effectively to ensure that safety is maintained as efficiently and effectively as possible, but we can’t be in the position where we’re in analysis paralysis either – everyone must appreciate that it’s a lifecycle process. Until we figure out a more effective way of integrating investment analysis and requirements with contracting responsibilities, we’re not going to keep pace with new entrants. 

Yet, Tash also has seen great progress being made. During a video chat with our Connected Aviation Today editorial team, he shared with us three main areas where he felt exciting innovation has occurred this past year. The first, he shared, is a new communications gateway that is moving into development and production. It will improve communications between the aircraft pilots, and air controllers within the NAS. The second is one of the most significant changes to oceanic system in the last few decades, which will allow for reduced separation of the oceans. The last example given was the next phase of ADS-B, which according to Tash is “on the verge of providing monumental benefits.”

But overall, Tash tells us that the procurement process isn’t a “one-size fits all approach,” and that the FAA is looking at how to tailor the process to what is being purchased, how it is being purchased and what the end result will be – whether it is a technology refresh or a new capability.