DEMOCRATIC SENATOR CRACKS DOWN ON COST OVERRUNS BY FAA IN ATC TRAINING CONTACT—POOR STAFF WORK?

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ARTICLE: AIN Blog: Senator Unhappy with FAA Training Response

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Because the nature of FAA ATC training tends to be highly cyclical and faced with a bow wave requirement for new controllers, the agency contracted with Raytheon Technical Services to qualify new and requalify existing controllers. That agreement has a year to go before it is completed, but the $860,000,000 assigned for payment will be exhausted soon. To add to the difficulty, the FAA planned to extend the term for three years.

Not so fast says Senator Claire McCaskill, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. She wrote a letter to Acting Administrator Huerta inquiring about this cost overrun. Mr. Huerta, whose nomination is pending before the Senate, responded on July 18 that the Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution (COTS) contract had contributed to the successful hiring of the much needed 7,500 new controllers, but admitted that the positive aspect “came with an unacceptable cost growth and that we did not effectively manage the contract in the past.”

That answer was deemed unacceptable by the Senator, who is a candidate for reelection this fall. Her words were as follows:

“The FAA’s actions are unacceptable, and I fully intend to hold Administration officials’ feet to the fire when I call them to answer these questions face-to-face.”

Perhaps more damming was the Senator’s comment that the FAA had failed to establish adequate systems to assure that such waste does not reoccur.

Clearly, the Administrator was not involved in the day-to-day management of COTS and probably was unaware of the serious cost overruns until the Senator’s letter hit his in box.  Someone, fairly senior within the FAA, had the responsibility to monitor the Raytheon contract and in his/her judgment the delivery of the 7,500 controllers met the “ends justifying the means” test. Maybe under times in which the FAA was less scrutinized and Congressional oversight of cost overruns was less rabid, such a rationale might have been accepted. With billions being spent on Next Gen and even Democrats being aggressive on budget controls, such staff work was unacceptable.

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