FAA Reauthorization Focus should be both Transformational and Foundational

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Should not Congress consider whether the FAA’s personnel (numbers, salaries, training, recruitment, etc.) are appropriate for future challenges?

Chairman Shuster has said several times that he wants to make the 2015 FAA Reauthorization Act TRANSFORMATIONAL. What are the boundaries of this “change”? Clearly something needs be done as the proposals for funding and governance of the ATC system and NextGen are complex and numerous.

Is there more which should be considered?

It is (has been?) axiomatic that the FAA is the gold standard around the world for aviation safety. What is the foundation for the historic excellence? It’s people. Their assignments are expanding with increased duties: more flights, increased certification volume and complexity, the nationwide swarm of UASs, overseas oversights, etc. The positions and salaries have been stagnant, at best.

The senior staff has been brilliant in its development of regulatory strategies (SMS, SASO, etc.) which minimize the need for substantial staff distribution in the field. This data driven regime places even greater emphasis on the need for personnel, who are comfortable with analyzing statistics, determining what numbers matter and can collaboratively design solutions.

The current FAA staff has a high percentage of people eligible for retirement. That problem is also an opportunity; as new employees are hired, their selection criteria should be oriented toward these skills, particularly in the Aviation Safety sector.

What might be a good model for such new hires? Clearly trying to find the next Margaret Gilligan ,Teri Bristol , Edward Bolton, John J. Hickey, Nan Shellabarger and many other capable executives who perform so well. An example of what types of people who might excel in this new data regime may be found in recent history.

Anthony Broderick, Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification 1986-1996, provides a good model.

His academic resume was not purely aeronautical (he did earn his pilot license), his credential as a BS in Physics provided the kind of intellectual firepower to ask probative, insightful questions. In 25 years of service (he started out assessing upper atmospheric ozone reduction at the DoT Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts), Tony became a technical expert on all of the science and engineering of aviation. Part of the reason for his panoramic knowledge was his willingness to accept a wide variety of assignments. No staff person, who made a presentation on an arcane subject to the Associate Administrator, ever tried to “wing” it; all knew if you were not prepared and could not command all of the aspects of the subject, that Mr. Broderick would find that flaw.

A tough guy, but Tony was aggressive in his protection of his FAA people; in fact, one might say that his loyalty to his team was a flaw. His command of numbers was and is exceptional, but not unexpected of a physics major. Tony attacked his mission with passion; he was usually the first in his office at 800 Independence Ave. and the last to leave.

Integrity was his hallmark. He spoke the truth and with authority. People, particularly those on the Hill, listened. Sometimes his honesty could be interpreted as bluntness. Tony enjoyed debate and his spirited exchanges did not wither even when his dialogue was with an Administrator, Secretary or Senator.

Eighteen years after leaving FAA Mr. Broderick continues to serve the aviation industry. His passion for aviation safety remains strong and demands for his sage advice and counsel continues to grow. Evidence that the judgment which he honed during his federal service is highly valued by those whom he regulated.

Mr. Broderick is also a balanced man. He loves his family, helps his wife breed horses (he knows which mare is “heirworthy”) and loves NASCAR.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee should not only examine transformational issues in Reauthorization. Their focus must include foundational issues; as the FAA moves forward, we must have an exceptional personnel roster to meet its ever increasing challenges. Mr. Broderick would serve as a good model of what future staff.

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