Civil Servants at the FAA in 2021

FAA employees
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Civil Service has been a meritorious career for millenia

Recent politics have questioned the federal bureaucracy

Two random examples of FAA staff

Two recent unrelated stories were catalysts for a post about the current state of the civil servants who perform, on a daily basis, critical aviation safety functions.

Before reviewing the two individuals, it seems appropriate to review the historical concept of civil servants and the evolution of this honored profession  in the United States.

The size of the Federal Civil Servant population has been under question since at least the ‘80s in the US. “There is a particularly deep sense of distrust in the U.S. federal government. In an April 2019 Pew Research Center poll, for example, only 17% of respondents indicated that they trusted the federal government “to do the right thing.”[1] This political perspective is a bit incongruous given that “there is significant support for the vital functions public servants perform at the local and state levels, and during crises, deeply entrenched misconceptions about the U.S. federal government and its individual agencies shape more negative views. For example, the opinion that the U.S. government is vast and unwieldly is widespread outside the public sector. The U.S. population has been evenly split for several years in its views on the optimal size of the U.S. government—with 47% of those polled by Pew in 2019 seeing government as either too big or too small.”1

Though its invention, commonly attributed to the British (perhaps because they perfected it), the concept of a highly qualified civil servant is traced to two Chinese Emperors. These two leaders (unelected) decided that the then patronage system was the reason for poor policy decisions and that a merit-based system would lead to better results.

Chinese Emperors started civil service

In the United States, the rules for hiring and termination of government employees was not set by statute or policy until the 19th century. President Grant, in a wave of reforms, on March 3, 1871, signed into law the first U.S. civil service reform legislation, which had been passed by Congress. Within three years, patronage reappeared and the funding for the Civil Service Commission died. Another reformer, President Arthur continued the fight of his predecessor, President Garfield, and the CSC was reinstated. On  January 1, 1978, functions of the commission were split between the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board.













The FAA is the quintessential organization which must be populated with technically competent civil servants. Its safety mission requires that its staffFAA HEADQUARTERS AT NIGHT

  • consume massive amounts of externally generated information,
  • digest and apply that knowledge to all aspects of aviation,
  • communicate effectively with all stakeholders (passengers, airlines, manufacturers, general and business aviation, pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, Congress, the Executive Branch, etc.),
  • operate the world’s most complex air traffic control system requiring almost constant technology upgrades, managing a workforce across six times zones with a myriad of flight environments, maintaining infrastructure on the ground and in space 24/7/365
  • draft and promulgate complex rules and regulations with enough specificity to be enforced and with enough flexibility to be practically implemented,
  • participate in the international aviation community.

This is but a short summary of the ~40,000 dedicated FAA staff’s jobs.

Two random stories provide a statistically invalid sample of this work force, but are two  interesting insights inside the organization:



Federal Aviation Administration international work advances safety mission globally

By Lirio Liu, FAA Executive Director for the Office of International Affairs

Lirio Liu,


We at the FAA are passionate about an industry that makes our world more connected. Aviation fundamentally redefines geographicand in the case of commercial space – atmospheric boundaries. Aviation provides tremendous economic opportunities and connects people and cultures in new ways through our imagination and innovation. This vision is why global leadership is among the strategic pillars of FAAcOMMERCIAL sPACE tRANSPORTATION oFFICE Administrator Steve Dickson.

Over the years, the FAA as a preeminent aviation authority in the world has worked relentlessly to promote and develop global aviation safety. When you consider how far aviation has flown in a little more than a century from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to rockets transiting the International Space Station, you cannot overstate the contributions of FAA’s leadership and the Agency’s overriding safety mission. By working with and mentoring partner authorities, organisations, and industry around the world, we help meet the public’s expectations of the highest possible level of safety and seamless operations globally, even in areas we do not regulate directly.

Within the FAA’s Office of International Affairs, we coordinate the FAA’s engagement with international organisations, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and bilateral and regional international partners, to set international safety and efficiency standards. Through these channels, we seek to reach a consensus on international civil aviation standards and recommended practices and policies. Additionally, the FAA provides training and technical assistance worldwide and advances U.S. aviation objectives through a variety of forums to highlight FAA programmes and initiatives and share best practices.


Our prevailing perspective at the FAA is that we must embrace emerging entrants, such as unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) and evolutions made to concepts of operations technologies such as those we are seeing in commercial space. We need to look and act differently, with creativity and innovation that match the scope and pace of change. The FAA’s new commercial space final rule that took effect in March 2021 is a compelling example.

…[omitted: more details about FAA and Commercial Space Transportation]...

Overall, the FAA’s learned lessons and experience with a variety of launch operator concepts allow us to share and leverage our knowledge with our partners and further enable commercial space to grow globally. From conventional aircraft to unmanned aerial systems to commercial space, we recognise the unique responsibility that comes with our deep and rich history. Our collective expertise and experience will remain essential to influence the global direction of aviation and to uphold public confidence. The FAA will continue to add its prominent voice to ensure the safest, most efficient and environmentally sustainable aviation system possible throughout the world.”



Ms. Liu’s talents are so relevant today as the FAA reestablishes its global presence—she knows certification from engineering to NPRMs to global partners. Here’s some more of her qualifications:


Federal Aviation Administration FAA SEAL

Total Duration30 yrs 1 mo


  • Executive Director, Office of International Affairs

2020 – Present

Responsible for the development of international policy and provides guidance across the various disciplines of the FAA and is also responsible for the FAA’s international offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

  • Executive Director, Office of Operational Safety, Commercial Space Transportation

 2020 – Oct 2020

Responsible for ensuring the protection of the public, property, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States during commercial launch or reentry activities, and to encourage, facilitate, and promote U.S. commercial space transportation. Responsibilities include executive oversite of the operational requirements leading to the authorization for commercial launch operations. Directly oversaw the activities related to safety analysis and assurance, coordination of Air traffic and environmental issues, and coordination with the stakeholder leading to the issuance of a license. Established the new office of Operational safety in March 2020, implemented change management principles and process to assure a smooth transition with no adverse effects to operations, and effectively finalized the Streamlined Launch and re-entry rulemaking, which supports the National Space Council Policy Directive 2 initiatives…see more

  • Acting Deputy Associate Administrator, Aviation Safety

Jun 2019 – Jan 2020

Provided executive leadership to an organization of over 7,000 employees who are responsible for setting safety standards and overseeing all parts of the aviation industry — airlines, manufacturers, repair stations, pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and any person or product that operates in aviation. As the Deputy, supported the return to service activities for the Boeing 737 MAX, including detailed briefings with FAA leadership and stakeholders; participated as AVS representative to the Next Gen Advisory Committee (NAC) and relevant activities related to aircraft equipage; oversaw the successful equipage of ADS-B required for compliance by 2020; coordinated the implementation activities of the 80+ provisions of the FAA reauthorization, including the rulemaking, committee, and reports to congress, and specifically in the establishment of the Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee (SOCAC). Supported the FAA Deputy Administrator as a witness during testimony for a congressional hearing on FAA reauthorization; and managed staffing and budget issues for the organization, with an annual budget is more than $1.4 billion.…see more

  • Executive Director, Office of Rulemaking, Aviation Safety

Apr 2012 – Jan 2020

Responsible for the Rulemaking Program for the Federal Aviation Administration. Designated Federal Officer for the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) and primary liaison for interagency coordination with Office of the Secretary of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget on rulemaking matters. Successfully implemented the Executive Orders on Regulatory Reform with a positive cost saving to the DOT of $64Mil in the first year of implementation

  • Deputy Regional Administrator

Oct 2009 – Apr 2012

Hawthorne, California

  • Technical Special Assistant to the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety

Dec 2008 – Oct 2009

  • Technical Special Assistant to the Director, Aircraft Certification Service

                         Aug 2008 – Dec 2008

  • Senior Representative

Apr 2004 – Aug 2008

  • Manager, Seattle Aircraft Certification Office

Nov 2000 – Apr 2004

  • Manager, Standardization Branch, Transport Standards Staff

Oct 1998 – Oct 2000

  • Program Manager, International Branch, Transport Standards Staff

Sep 1997 – Oct 1998

  • Aerospace Engineer, Airframe Branch, Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office

Jun 1991 – Sep 1997



James Huddleston is joining the FAA as a senior adviser in the Aviation Safety Office. He previously was legislative director for Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).


His job will be part of  this organization’s mission:

Aviation Safety is an organization responsible for the certification, production approval, and continued airworthiness of aircraft; and certification of pilots, mechanics, and others in safety-related positions.

AVS MISSIONAviation Safety is also responsible for:

  • Certification of all operational and maintenance enterprises in domestic civil aviation
  • Certification and safety oversight of approximately 7,300 U.S. commercial airlines and air operators
  • Civil flight operations
  • Developing regulations

Aviation Safety (AVS)












To this job in a technical organization, Mr. Huddleston brings the following experience and education:


o   Legislative Director

Aug 2020 – 2021

of Congressman Peter DeFazio – Washington, D.C.

primary adviser for: budget, financial services, homeland security, immigration, judiciary, labor, tax, trade, veterans

o   Senior Legislative Assistant

 Jun 2019 – Aug 2020

Policy adviser for: budget, financial services, homeland security, immigration, judiciary, labor, tax, trade, veterans

o   Legislative Assistant

Jul 2017 – Jun 2019

Policy adviser for: defense, foreign affairs, homeland security, immigration, judiciary, labor, postal, trade, veterans

o   Legislative Correspondent

Feb 2017 – Jul 2017

          • Managed a 15,000+ monthly constituent correspondence database summarizing key policy issues
            • Designed and maintained a bi-weekly e-newsletter reaching more than 20,000 constituents
            • Supervised an intern team in drafting constituent correspondence


Hillary for America

Jul 2016 – Nov 2016                                                                                                      Maine

        • Recruited, trained, and managed a network of more than 250 volunteers
          • Planned and executed phone banks, canvasses, voter registration drives, and large scale visits from national surrogates
          • Led the entire state coordinated campaign in Get Out The Vote (GOTV) volunteer shift recruitment
          • Oversaw GOTV efforts for Hancock and Waldo Counties, two critical counties in the Second Congressional District


Manager, Government Affairs

May 2016 – Jul 2016

        • Provided legislative and political research assistance while also monitoring congressional, executive, and judicial branch activities on issues such as healthcare, tax, transportation, trade, and other business community issues to help identify policy priorities and trends to keep RILA members apprised of important developments
          • Represented RILA and RILA members at meetings with Members of Congress and Congressional staff, Executive branch officials, Congressional hearings, and trade association conferences and meetings
          • Managed all political action committee (PAC) research, outreach, and compliance for a $250,000 PAC
          • Led all compliance operations for both state and federal political operations
          • Organized and executed semi-annual conferences for subject matter experts and government affairs professional

o   Coordinator, Government Affairs

May 2015 – May 2016

 May 2014 – May 2015

      • Provided project management and assistance in development of national strategy to organize and facilitate volunteer
        and training oriented opportunities for corporations nationwide
        • Researched and translated concepts, strategies and policies from current and previous programs into practical action
        plans to improve upon and grow Red Cross best practices
        • Managed department’s multi-channel internal communications intranet for 20,000+ staff and volunteers across the U.S.
        • Developed internal and external sales and communications materials for medium and large scale campaigns
        …see more

o   Associate, Corporate Partnerships

Jun 2013 – May 2014

      • Develop 10 stakeholder suites of materials for use in the field activation of corporate engagement volunteer campaigns and in communication with volunteers
        • Provide assistance and coordination to help organize and facilitate volunteer and training oriented opportunities for large groups of corporate volunteers in a number of multi-site engagements
        • Establish and help execute appropriate and effective engagements for philanthropic partners that meet objectives of both field fundraisers and corporate partners
        • Collaborate with each line of service and necessary field staff to create sales materials to successfully execute local and national opportunities


House of Commons                                                                                                                     Jan 2011 – May 2011

 Researched and compiled analysis briefs on a wide variety of issues and policies including economy and tax

      • • Attended appropriate committee hearings for the Member to provide insight into committee discussions
        • Facilitated all scheduling, expenses and travel, and managed day-to-day office operations with minimal supervision
        • Coordinated constituent outreach and response and acted as a liaison to the Member for the district office

U.S. House of Representatives

May 2010 – Aug 2010

Oregon City, OR

      • Engaged with constituents and served as their liaison to Congressman Schrader by addressing their concerns with federal policy, working closely with legislative correspondents to write and edit constituent communications
        • Worked with policy staffers for Small Business and Budget Committees to write briefings


Mr. Huddleston, apparently, will be available to give the AVS leadership his understanding of how they can best communicate the value of new safety initiatives to Congress and the General Public.

[1] Public service and the federal government; see also 10 questions and answers about America’s “Big Government”




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