Inspector General finds that in spite of FAA ATO’s 51 cost saving/productivity efforts, per flight costs have increased

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Increased productivity of the Air Traffic Control organization is one of the key premises to NextGen. Much of that increased efficiency derives from the technology, but some measure of the improvement must come from management of the personnel. There is reason to believe that the FAA needs to better understand how to manage its existing human resources.

The below ↓ Report of the US Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General makes negative conclusions about current efforts to improve the human factor. The FAA concurred in each of the OIG’s findings.

The 28 page analysis starts with four basic findings:

· Since 2000, the ATO tower, center and TRACON staffing has remained basically the same (2000 @ 15,153; 2012 @ 15,211).

· Over that same period, air traffic volume has decreased 23% (2000 @ 151,582,863; 2012 @ 117,324, 105).

· Over the past 4 years, controller productive time per 8 hour shift decreased 17 minutes (2008 @ 5:43; 2012 @ 5:26)

· Over that same time frame, controller cost per operation increased by $6 from $19 (2008) to $25 (2012)

What is most discouraging is that these negative results were posted after the FAA initiated 51 programs designed to reduce these costs. The IG Report (p.17-23) analyzes each of the initiatives. Two of these efforts were found to have saved $4.5 million, but the IG determined that six ATO actions actually increased the ATC expenses. Of the remaining 43, nine are ongoing, five have been abandoned and 29 completed.

The most critical observation was that no baseline was established for 43 of their cost saving campaigns. The IG notes that the guidance for cost data collection and analysis was either non-existent or not required. Within the FAA, there is no consensus as to what the appropriate calculations for productivity should be. The IG pointed out that control and entry of the data was inadequate.

The IG made, and the FAA accepted, five recommendations:

1. Assess cost reduction efforts to determine if can achieve goals and then document the results accurately.

2. Create reliable productivity measures, costs, milestones and goals.

3. Identify future opportunities for cost reduction and productivity.

4. Require controllers to self-report their work times and categories through an automated system.

5. Ensure standardization in field reporting of costs.

Clay Foushee, the Director of the Office of Audit and Evaluation, submitted the FAA response, concurring in each of the criticisms. For each he includes some statement of positive agency actions. Some, he notes, require negotiations with NATCA.

It is clear that the FAA cannot define its ATC cost for handling any flight. The notion that a cost-based user fee can be assessed cannot be propounded until substantial improvements are carefully implemented.

This is a most discouraging analysis and hopefully the FAA will truly find appropriate methods to baseline and record improvements as well as, perhaps more importantly, design initiatives which will enhance productivity. NextGen will be a further challenge for it will redefine the job of the personnel assigned to interact between the FAA’s machines and airplanes. The historic justification has stated that the computers and communications will do more so that the FAA staff will do less.

REPORT: FAA Lacks the Metrics and Data Needed To Accurately Measure the Outcomes of Its Controller Productivity Initiatives

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