FAA Appropriation Issues

Gao ID: 129660 April 16, 1986

GAO discussed the continuing problems that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has had in procuring technologies for the National Airspace System Plan and developing adequate controller and inspector work forces. FAA has not: (1) developed a strategy for adequately considering its technical options in developing direct user access terminal systems designed to reduce the work load at flight service stations; (2) adequately identified the economic and safety risks of installing automated weather observing systems at towered airports; (3) completed research and development to find solutions to system problems before requesting appropriations; (4) planned to test either radar system in an operations environment before committing to production; (5) adhered with the phasing and competition principles fundamental to procurement policies; (6) adequately ensured that commercial airlines are complying with FAA safety regulations; or (7) developed adequate staffing standards to determine how and what type of inspectors are needed or where they should be assigned. Although FAA has made progress in incorporating the requirements and principles of procurement policies into its acquisition process, the eight systems under production have experienced cost increases and schedule delays. GAO also believes that there is an urgent need for more air traffic controllers. The growth of air traffic activity has increased, and supervisors have expressed concern about their ability to continue to maintain the proper margin of safety due to their high work load. Although efforts are underway to improve controller staffing, new controllers need 2 years or more to become fully trained. Further, FAA is increasing its inspector work without making needed revisions in existing training policies, procedures, and directives. GAO believes that Congress should continue to question FAA appropriations requests to ensure that systems work adequately before they are acquired.

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