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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and 
Infrastructure, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 10:00 a.m. EST:
Wednesday, January 27, 2010: 

National Transportation Safety Board: 

Issues Related to the 2010 Reauthorization: 

Statement of Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D. 
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues: 

GAO-10-366T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-366T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, House of 
Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), whose reauthorization 
is the subject of today’s hearing, plays a vital role in advancing 
transportation safety by investigating accidents, determining their 
causes, issuing safety recommendations, and conducting safety studies. 
To support the agency’s mission, NTSB’s Training Center provides 
training to NTSB investigators and others. NTSB’s 2006 reauthorization 
legislation mandates an annual review by GAO, and from 2006 through 
2008, GAO made 21 recommendations to NTSB that address its management, 
information technology (IT), accident investigation criteria, safety 
studies, and Training Center use. This testimony addresses NTSB’s 
progress in implementing GAO’s recommendations that it (1) follow 
leading management practices, (2) conduct aspects of its accident 
investigations and safety studies more efficiently, and (3) increase 
the use of its Training Center. The testimony also discusses (4) 
changes NTSB seeks in its 2010 reauthorization proposal. 

This testimony is based on GAO’s assessment from July 2009 to January 
2010 of plans and procedures NTSB developed to address these 
recommendations. NTSB provided technical comments that GAO 
incorporated as appropriate. 

What GAO Found: 

NTSB has fully implemented or made significant progress in adopting 
leading management practices in all areas where GAO made prior 
recommendations. Since 2008, NTSB has revised several of its planning 
documents, including its agencywide strategic plan; improved 
information security; and obligated money to implement a full cost 
accounting system. NTSB has also taken steps to improve the diversity 
of its workforce and management. However, women and minorities were 
less well represented in NTSB’s fiscal year 2008 workforce than in the 
federal government, and no minorities are among NTSB’s 15 senior 
executives. A lack of diversity among top managers can limit the 
variety of perspectives and approaches to policy development and 
decision making at an agency. 

With the adoption of criteria for selecting highway and marine 
accidents to investigate, NTSB has established criteria for all 
transportation modes. NTSB is also streamlining and increasing its use 
of technology in closing out recommendations. NTSB has three safety 
studies in progress and would like to broaden the term “safety studies”
to include not only its current studies of multiple accidents, but 
also the research it does for other, smaller safety-related reports 
and data inquiries. 

NTSB has continued to increase the use of its Training Center—from 10 
percent in fiscal year 2006 to 80 percent in fiscal year 2009. As a 
result, revenues have increased and the center’s overall deficit has 
declined from about $3.9 million in fiscal year 2005 to about $1.9 
million in fiscal year 2009. 

In its 2010 reauthorization proposal, NTSB seeks substantive changes 
to its existing authorizing legislation, including explicit statutory 
authority to investigate incidents in all modes and reduced statutory 
requirements for investigating rail and maritime accidents. Both 
changes would increase NTSB’s investigatory discretion. Such 
discretion would allow NTSB to select incidents with the greatest 
potential to improve safety, yet decisions based on discretion may be 
less transparent than those based on criteria. Striking the right 
balance between discretionary and criteria-based investigations will 
be important to ensure that NTSB’s resources can be used for the work 
with the greatest potential to enhance transportation safety. 

Figure: NTSB Investigative Modes: Marine, Highway, Aviation, Railroad, 
Pipeline: 

[Refer to PDF for image: 5 photographs] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-366T] or key 
components. For more information, contact Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., 
at (202) 512-2834 or dillinghamg@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today as you 
consider the reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety 
Board (NTSB). NTSB is a relatively small agency that has gained a 
worldwide reputation as a preeminent investigator of transportation 
accidents. With a staff of about 400 and a budget of $98 million for 
fiscal year 2010,[Footnote 1] NTSB is charged with investigating every 
civil aviation accident in the United States and selected accidents in 
other transportation modes, determining the probable causes of these 
accidents, making recommendations to address safety issues identified 
during accident investigations, and performing transportation safety 
studies. To support its mission, NTSB built a Training Center that 
opened in 2003 and provides training to NTSB investigators and other 
transportation safety professionals. 

As the share of federal resources used to address the nation's long- 
term fiscal imbalance and other national priorities grows, funding for 
increases in the budgets of individual agencies becomes more 
uncertain. It is therefore critical for NTSB to use its resources as 
efficiently as possible to carry out its mission. In 2006, we 
conducted a broad review of the agency's management practices, 
examined how it carried out its activities related to accident 
investigations and safety studies, and analyzed whether its Training 
Center was cost-effective.[Footnote 2] Since then, we have reviewed 
NTSB as mandated in the agency's 2006 reauthorization legislation, 
[Footnote 3] and, in total, we have made 21 recommendations in these 
areas. In addition, in recent years, other entities have conducted 
reviews and made recommendations to NTSB related to information 
security practices and financial management. Our testimony addresses 
NTSB's progress in (1) following leading practices in management areas 
such as strategic planning, human capital management, information 
technology (IT), and financial management; (2) increasing the 
efficiency of activities related to investigating accidents, issuing 
recommendations, and conducting safety studies; and (3) increasing the 
use of its Training Center. In addition, the testimony provides our 
observations on changes NTSB seeks in its 2010 reauthorization 
proposal. 

Our testimony is based on our analysis of policies and procedures that 
NTSB developed in response to our recommendations and to the 
recommendations of the independent auditors of NTSB's information 
systems. To perform our analysis, we reviewed NTSB's agencywide, IT, 
and human capital strategic plans; office operating plans, and other 
relevant documents. We also visited the NTSB Training Center; 
interviewed NTSB's Chief Information Officer, Chief Financial Officer, 
and other agency officials; and updated information we have reported 
since 2006 (see appendix I for a list of our prior work).[Footnote 4] 
In addition, we performed limited testing of NTSB's laptop computers. 
In our analysis, we classified NTSB's progress in implementing a 
recommendation as limited when the agency was in the early planning 
stages and documents or milestones for actions did not exist or the 
agency did not follow leading practices. Recognizing that many 
recommendations may take considerable time and effort to fully 
implement, we classified NTSB's progress in implementing a 
recommendation as significant if the agency had taken steps beyond the 
early planning stages toward addressing the concerns. For example, 
NTSB might have developed documents or policies that, for the most 
part, followed leading practices. We classified a recommendation as 
fully implemented when NTSB had fully implemented plans or processes 
that followed leading practices. NTSB provided technical comments on a 
draft of this statement that we incorporated as appropriate. Finally, 
we reviewed NTSB's reauthorization proposal and made observations 
where appropriate. We conducted this performance audit from July 2009 
to January 2010 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. 

NTSB Has Made Progress in All Management Areas, but Further Actions 
Are Needed to Fully Implement Some Recommendations: 

Overall, NTSB has fully implemented or made significant progress in 
following leading management practices in all eight areas that our 
recommendations addressed in 2006 and 2008--communication, strategic 
planning, IT, knowledge management, organizational structure, human 
capital management, training, and financial management. We made 15 
management recommendations in these areas based on leading agency 
management practices that we identified through our governmentwide 
work. Although NTSB is a relatively small agency, such practices 
remain relevant. Figure 1 summarizes NTSB's progress in implementing 
our management recommendations. 

Figure 1: Implementation Status of GAO's Recommendations Related to 
NTSB's Management: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustrated table] 

Area: Communication; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop mechanisms to facilitate communication 
from staff to management; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Fully implemented; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Communication; 
GAO Recommendation: Report to Congress on the status of GAO 
recommendations; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Strategic planning; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a revised strategic plan that follows 
performance-based practices; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: 

Area: Information technology (IT); 
GAO Recommendation: Develop an IT plan that includes policies and a 
strategy to guide IT acquisitions; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Information technology (IT); 
GAO Recommendation: Encrypt information/data on all laptops and mobile 
devices; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Information technology (IT); 
GAO Recommendation: Limit local administrator privileges to those 
accounts that require that level of access[A]; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Knowledge management; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a knowledge management plan to create, 
capture, and reuse knowledge to achieve NTSB's objectives; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Organizational structure; 
GAO Recommendation: Align organizational structure to implement 
strategic plan; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Fully implemented; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Organizational structure; 
GAO Recommendation: Eliminate unnecessary management layers; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Human capital management; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a strategic human capital plan that is 
linked to NTSB's overall strategic plan. This human capital plan 
should include strategies on staffing, recruitment and retention, 
training, and diversity management; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Training; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a strategic training plan that is aligned 
with NTSB's revised strategic plan, identifies skill gaps that pose 
obstacles to meeting the agency's strategic goals, and establishes 
curriculum that would eliminate those gaps; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Training; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a core curriculum for investigators that 
addresses the specialized needs for each mode; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Financial management; 
GAO Recommendation: Correct violation of the Antideficiency Act 
related to purchasing accidental death and dismemberment insurance for 
employees on official travel[B]; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Fully implemented; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Financial management; 
GAO Recommendation: Correct violation of the Antideficiency Act 
related to NTSB's lease of the Training Center; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Financial management; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop a full cost accounting system to track 
time employees spend on each investigation and in training; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Source: GAO analysis of NTSB data. 

[A] Users with local administrator privileges on their workstations 
have complete control over all local resources, including accounts and 
files, and have the ability to load software with known 
vulnerabilities, either unintentionally or intentionally, and to 
modify or reconfigure their computers in a manner that could negate 
network security policies as well as provide an attack vector into the 
internal network. Accordingly, industry best practices provide that 
membership in local administrator groups should be limited to only 
those accounts that require this level of access. 

[B] In 2007, we issued a legal decision finding that NTSB improperly 
used its appropriated funds to purchase accidental death and 
dismemberment insurance for its employees on official travel. NTSB 
does not have an appropriation specifically available for such a 
purpose, and the expenditures cannot be justified as a necessary 
expense. Because NTSB has no appropriation available to purchase 
accident insurance, the payments NTSB made constitute violations of 
the Antideficiency Act. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a). We did not make a 
recommendation regarding this violation of the act because we reported 
the violation in a Comptroller General's decision, and such decisions 
do not include recommendations. GAO, Decision of the Comptroller 
General of the United States, B-309715, September 25, 2007, National 
Transportation Safety Board--Insurance for Employees Traveling on 
Official Business. NTSB remedied this violation through a fiscal year 
appropriation. Pub. L. No. 110-161, Title III, 121 Stat. 1844, 2441 
(2007). A bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, 
H.R. 915, 111th Cong., 2009, would provide NTSB with specific 
authority to purchase this insurance. 

[End of figure] 

NTSB had fully implemented three of our management recommendations as 
of our report in April 2008--our recommendations to (1) facilitate 
communication from staff to management, (2) align organizational 
structure to implement a strategic plan, and (3) correct an 
Antideficiency Act violation related to purchasing accidental death 
and dismemberment insurance for employees on official travel. In 
addition, NTSB has made further progress on eight of our management 
recommendations since 2008. First, it fully implemented our 
recommendations on communication by reporting to Congress on the 
status of our recommendations by including the actions it has taken to 
address them in its Annual Report to Congress.[Footnote 5] In 
addition, it has fully implemented our recommendation on strategic 
planning by linking all five mission areas in its goals and objectives 
and seeking external stakeholder comments. NTSB has also taken steps 
to implement all three of our IT-related recommendations: 

* NTSB has fully implemented an IT strategic plan that addresses our 
comments. Moreover, in compliance with the Federal Information 
Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), NTSB has undergone annual 
independent audits, hiring outside contractors to perform security 
testing and evaluation of its computer systems.[Footnote 6] 

* We performed limited testing to verify that NTSB has implemented our 
recommendation to install encryption software. Agency officials 
confirmed, however, that while encryption software is operational on 
410 of the agency's approximately 420 laptop computers, the remaining 
laptops do not have encryption software installed because they do not 
include sensitive information and are not removed from the 
headquarters building. 

* NTSB has made significant progress in limiting local administrator 
privileges while allowing for employees to add software and print from 
offsite locations as necessary. 

NTSB has also drafted a strategic training plan that, when finalized, 
would address GAO guidance on federal strategic training and 
development efforts and establish the core competencies needed for 
investigators and other staff. In addition, two modal offices have 
developed core curricula that relate specifically to their 
investigators. 

In addition, NTSB obligated $1.3 million in September 2009 to the 
National Business Center--an arm of the Department of the Interior 
that provides for-fee payroll services to federal agencies--to develop 
a full cost accounting system for NTSB based on a statement of work. 
NTSB officials said that the first phase of the cost accounting system 
will be implemented late in fiscal year 2010. When the system is 
completed to permit recording of the time and costs of investigations 
and other activities, including training, this action will fully 
implement our recommendation. 

The remaining four management recommendations have not yet been fully 
implemented. However, NTSB has initiated actions that could lead to 
their full implementation. For example, NTSB has continued to improve 
its knowledge management by developing a plan to capture, create, 
share, and revise knowledge, and the agency is deploying Microsoft 
SharePoint® to facilitate the sharing of useful information within 
NTSB. 

In April 2008, we reported that NTSB had made significant progress in 
implementing our human capital planning recommendation by issuing a 
human capital plan that incorporated several strategies on enhancing 
the recruitment process. However, we also said the plan was limited in 
some areas of diversity management. As we have previously reported, 
diversity management is a key aspect of strategic human capital 
management. Developing a workforce that includes and takes advantage 
of the nation's diversity is a significant part of an agency's 
transformation of its organization to meet the challenges of the 21st 
century. The most recent version of NTSB's human capital plan 
establishes goals for recruiting, developing, and retaining a diverse 
workforce, and NTSB provided diversity training to 32 of its senior 
managers and office directors in May 2009. Table 1 compares the 
diversity of NTSB's fiscal year 2008 workforce with that of the 
federal government and the civilian labor force. 

Table 1: NTSB, Federal Government, and Civilian Labor Force Diversity 
by Percentage, Fiscal Year 2008: 

Fiscal year 2008[A]: 

NTSB: 
African American: 17.0%; 
American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.0%; 
Asian/Pacific Islander: 4.0%; 
Hispanic: 2.0%; 
White: 76.0%; 
Women: 38.0%; 
Men: 62.0%. 

Federal government: 
African American: 17.9%; 
American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.9%; 
Asian/Pacific Islander: 5.4%; 
Hispanic: 7.9%; 
White: 66.6%; 
Women: 44.2%; 
Men: 55.8%. 

Civilian labor force[B]: 
African American: 10.0%; 
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.7%; 
Asian/Pacific Islander: 4.3%; 
Hispanic: 13.2%; 
White: 70.7%; 
Women: 45.6%; 
Men: 54.4%. 

Sources: Federal government and civilian labor force data are from the 
Office of Personnel Management's Fiscal Year 2008 Equal Opportunity 
Recruitment Program report. Data for NTSB are from the supplement to 
its strategic human capital plan. 

[A] These are the most recent data NTSB issued on diversity. 

[B] The civilian labor force is defined as persons 16 years and older 
(including federal workers), regardless of citizenship, who are 
employed or looking for work and are not in the military or 
institutionalized. A minimum age of 18 years is required for most 
federal employment. 

[End of table] 

As the table shows, the percentages of NTSB's fiscal year 2008 
workforce that were women and minorities were lower than those of the 
federal government. Under the Office of Personnel Management's 
regulations implementing the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment 
Program, agencies are required to determine where representation 
levels for covered groups are lower than for the civilian labor force 
and take steps to address those differences.[Footnote 7] 

Additionally, as of fiscal year 2008, 9 percent of NSTB's managers and 
supervisors were minorities and 24 percent were women (see figure 2). 
Furthermore, according to NTSB, none of its current 15-member career 
Senior Executive Service (SES) personnel were members of a minority 
group, and only 2 of them were women. As we have previously reported, 
diversity in the SES corps, which generally represents the most 
experienced segment of the federal workforce, can strengthen an 
organization by bringing a wider variety of perspectives and 
approaches to policy development and decision making. 

Figure 2: Distribution of NTSB Supervisory or Managerial Positions, by 
Race and Gender, Fiscal Year 2008: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Male, Number of supervisors/managers: 59; 
Female, Number of supervisors/managers: 19; 
White, Number of supervisors/managers: 71; 
Nonwhite, Number of supervisors/managers: 7. 

Source: GAO analysis of NTSB data. 

[End of figure] 

NTSB has undertaken several initiatives to create a stronger, more 
diverse pool of candidates for external positions. These initiatives 
include the establishment of a Management Candidate Program that has 
attracted a diverse pool of minority and female candidates at the GS 
13/14 level. NTSB's Executive Development Program focuses on 
identifying candidates for current and future SES positions at the 
agency. Despite these efforts, NTSB has not been able to appreciably 
change the diversity profile of its senior management. 

NTSB's current workforce demographics may present the agency with an 
opportunity to increase the diversity of its workforce and management. 
According to NTSB, in 3 years, more than 50 percent of its current 
supervisors and managers will be eligible to retire, as will over 25 
percent of its general workforce. Furthermore, 53 percent of its 
investigators and 71 percent of those filling critical leadership 
positions are at least 50 years old. Although actual retirement rates 
may be lower than retirement eligibility rates, especially in the 
present economic environment, consideration of retirement eligibility 
is important to workforce planning. 

NTSB Has Made Its Selection of Accident Investigations More Efficient, 
but Reporting Can Be Improved: 

We previously made four recommendations to NTSB to improve the 
efficiency of its activities related to investigating accidents, such 
as identifying criteria for selecting which accidents to investigate 
and tracking the status of its recommendations, and increasing its use 
of safety studies (see figure 3). 

Figure 3: Implementation Status of GAO Recommendations Related to 
NTSB's Accident Investigation Mission and Safety Studies: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustrated table] 

Area: Accident selection; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop agency orders for all modes articulating 
risk-based criteria for selecting which accidents to investigate; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Area: Recommendation close-out; 
GAO Recommendation: Computerize related documentation and use 
concurrent reviews; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Report development; 
GAO Recommendation: Identify better practices in the agency and apply 
them to all modes; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Safety studies; 
GAO Recommendation: Increase use of safety studies; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Source: GAO analysis of NTSB data. 

[End of figure] 

NTSB is required by statute to investigate all civil aviation 
accidents and selected accidents in other modes--highway, marine, 
railroad, pipeline, and hazardous materials.[Footnote 8] Since our 
April 2008 report, NTSB has fully implemented our recommendation to 
develop transparent policies containing risk-based criteria for 
selecting which accidents to investigate. The recently completed 
highway policy assigns priority to accidents based on the number of 
fatalities, whether the accident conditions are on NTSB's "Watch 
List,"[Footnote 9] or whether the accidents might have significant 
safety issues, among other factors (see fig. 4). For marine accidents, 
NTSB has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Coast Guard 
that includes criteria for selecting which accidents to investigate. 
In addition, NTSB has now developed an internal policy on selecting 
marine accidents for investigation. This policy enhances the MOU by 
providing criteria to assess whether to launch an investigation when 
the Coast Guard, not NTSB, would have the lead. In April 2008, we 
reported that NTSB had also developed a transparent, risk-based policy 
explaining which aviation, rail, pipeline, and hazardous materials 
accidents to investigate.[Footnote 10] 

Figure 4: Two NTSB Investigators Assess Motorcoach Wreckage: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: NTSB. 

[End of figure] 

The remaining three recommendations have not yet been fully 
implemented. However, NTSB has initiated actions that could lead to 
closure of two of the recommendations. NTSB's deployment of an 
agencywide electronic information system based on Microsoft SharePoint 
will allow NTSB to streamline and increase its use of technology in 
closing out recommendations and in developing reports. When fully 
implemented, this system should serve to close these two 
recommendations. 

NTSB has also made significant progress in implementing our 
recommendation to increase its use of safety studies, which are 
multiyear efforts that result in recommendations. They are intended to 
improve transportation safety by effecting changes to policies, 
programs, and activities of agencies that regulate transportation 
safety. While we, the Department of Transportation, and 
nongovernmental groups, like universities, also conduct research 
designed to improve transportation safety, NTSB is mandated to carry 
out special studies and investigations about transportation safety, 
including studies about how to avoid personal injury.[Footnote 11] 
Although NTSB has not completed any safety studies since we made our 
recommendation in 2006, it has three studies in progress, one of which 
is in final draft, and it has established a goal of developing two 
safety study proposals and submitting them to its board for approval 
each year. NTSB officials told us that because the agency has a small 
number of staff, it has difficulty producing large studies in addition 
to processing many other reports and data inquiries. NTSB officials 
told us they would like to broaden the term "safety studies" to 
include not only the current studies of multiple accidents, but also 
the research done for the other, smaller safety-related reports and 
data inquiries. Such a term, they said, would better characterize the 
scope of their efforts to report safety information to the public. 
NTSB also developed new guidelines to address its completion of safety 
studies. 

NTSB Has Increased Use of the Training Center: 

We made two recommendations for NTSB to increase its own and other 
agencies' use of the Training Center and to decrease the center's 
overall operating deficit (see fig. 5). The agency increased use of 
the center's classroom space from 10 percent in fiscal year 2006 to 80 
percent in fiscal year 2009. According to NTSB, it has sublease 
agreements with agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 
to rent approximately three-quarters of the classroom space located on 
the first and second floors. The warehouse portion of the Training 
Center houses reconstructed wreckage from TWA Flight 800, damaged 
aircraft, and other wreckage. The Training Center provides core 
training for NTSB investigators and trains others from the 
transportation community to improve their practice of accident 
investigation. Furthermore, NTSB has hired a Management Support 
Specialist whose job duties include maximizing the Training Center's 
use and marketing its use to other agencies or organizations. The 
agency's actions to increase the center's use also helped increase 
Training Center revenues from about $635,000 in fiscal year 2005 to 
about $1,771,000 in fiscal year 2009. By reducing the center's leasing 
expenses--for example, by subleasing classrooms and office space at 
the center to other agencies--NTSB reduced the Training Center's 
annual deficit from about $3.9 million to about $1.9 million over the 
same time period. 

Figure 5: Implementation Status of GAO Recommendations Related to 
Training Center Use: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustrated table] 

Area: Training Center; 
GAO Recommendation: Maximize delivery of the core investigator 
curriculum at the Training Center; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Significant progress. 

Area: Training Center; 
GAO Recommendation: Develop plans to increase use of the Training 
Center; 
Status in 2006: New recommendation or limited progress; 
Status in 2008: Significant progress; 
Current status: Fully implemented. 

Source: GAO analysis of NTSB data. 

[End of figure] 

NTSB has made significant progress in achieving the intent of our 
recommendation to maximize the delivery of its core investigator 
curriculum at the Training Center by increasing the number of NTSB- 
related courses taught at the Training Center (figure 6). For example 
in 2008, 49 of the 68 courses offered at the Training Center were 
solely for NTSB employees. 

Figure 6: NTSB Training Center: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: NTSB. 

[End of figure] 

NTSB has fully implemented our recommendation to increase use of the 
Training Center. NTSB subleased all available office space at its 
Training Center to the Federal Air Marshal Service (a DHS agency) at 
an annual fee of $479,000. NTSB also increased use of the Training 
Center's classroom space and thereby increased the revenues it 
receives from course fees and rents for classroom and conference 
space. From fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2009, NTSB increased 
other agencies' and its own use of classroom space from 10 to 80 
percent, and increased revenues by over $1.1 million. For example, 
according to NTSB, it has a sublease agreement with DHS to rent 
approximately one-third of the classroom space. NTSB considered moving 
certain staff from headquarters to the Training Center, but halted 
these considerations after subleasing all of the Training Center's 
available office space. NTSB decreased personnel expenses related to 
the Training Center from about $980,000 in fiscal year 2005 to 
$507,000 in fiscal year 2009 by reducing the center's full-time-
equivalent positions from 8.5 to 3.0 over the same period. As a result 
of these efforts, from fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2009, 
Training Center revenues increased by 179 percent while the center's 
overall deficit decreased by 51 percent. (Table 2 shows direct 
expenses and revenues for the Training Center in fiscal years 2004 
through 2009.) However, the salaries and other personnel-related 
expenses associated with NTSB investigators and managers teaching at 
the Training Center, which would be appropriate to include in the 
Training Center's costs, are not included. NTSB officials told us that 
they believe the investigators and managers teaching at the Training 
Center would be teaching at another location even if the Training 
Center did not exist. Once NTSB has fully implemented its cost 
accounting system, it should be able to track and report these 
expenses. 

Table 2: Direct Expenses and Revenues for NTSB's Training Center, 
Fiscal Years 2004 through 2009 (Unaudited): 

Expenses: Personnel related; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $1,011,717; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $978,591; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $688,716; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $466,582; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $512,525; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $506,503. 

Expenses: Travel; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $24,428; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $56,912; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $31,009; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $22,284; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $35,572; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $32,678. 

Expenses: Space rental[A]; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $2,521,440; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $2,500,896; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $2,221,430; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $2,286,660; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $2,516,498; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $2,342,653. 

Expenses: Maintenance/repair of buildings[B]; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $706,279; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $238,203; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $23,151; 
Fiscal year: 2007: ($4,215); 
Fiscal year: 2008: [Empty]; 
Fiscal year: 2009: [Empty]. 

Expenses: Contract services; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $2,204,880; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $558,540; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $287,873; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $330,491; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $635,300; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $722,187. 

Expenses: Miscellaneous expenses[C]; 
Fiscal year: 2004: $42,258; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $182,136; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $57,099; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $19,720; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $77,399; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $82,482. 

Total expenses: 
Fiscal year: 2004: $6,511,003; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $4,515,279; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $3,309,277; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $3,121,521; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $3,777,294; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $3,686,503. 

Total earned revenue[D]: 
Fiscal year: 2004: $258,760; 
Fiscal year: 2005: $634,800; 
Fiscal year: 2006: $651,191; 
Fiscal year: 2007: $817,555; 
Fiscal year: 2008: $1,630,910; 
Fiscal year: 2009: $1,770,996. 

Overall deficit: 
Fiscal year: 2004: -$6,252,243; 
Fiscal year: 2005: -$3,880,479; 
Fiscal year: 2006: -$2,658,086; 
Fiscal year: 2007: -$2,303,966; 
Fiscal year: 2008: -$2,146,374; 
Fiscal year: 2009: -$1,915,507. 

Deficit when space rental expense is excluded: 
Fiscal year: 2004: -$3,730,803; 
Fiscal year: 2005: -$1,379,583; 
Fiscal year: 2006: -$436,656; 
Fiscal year: 2007: -$17,306; 
Fiscal year: 2008: -$453,737; 
Fiscal year: 2009: -$354,584. 

Source: GAO analysis of information from NTSB. 

[A] NTSB leases the Training Center from George Washington University 
under a 20-year capital lease that will expire in 2021. 

[B] The amount reported in the maintenance and repair category during 
fiscal year 2007 includes a refund of $28,377 to NTSB because of a 
reconciliation of utility costs, as required by the lease. According 
to NTSB officials, in recent years, maintenance and repair expenses 
have been reported in the contract services category. 

[C] Includes expenses for items such as telephone, mail, photography 
services, printing, office supplies, and equipment. 

[D] Earned revenue includes imputed fees for NTSB students and 
sublease fees. 

[End of table] 

Requested Changes in NTSB's Authority Would Provide Statutory 
Authority to Investigate Incidents and Reduce Required Accident 
Investigations: 

As part of the reauthorization process, NTSB has proposed both 
substantive and technical changes to its existing authorizing 
legislation.[Footnote 12] Among the substantive changes sought by NTSB 
are the statutory authority to investigate incidents[Footnote 13] in 
addition to its current authority to investigate accidents[Footnote 
14] in all transportation modes[Footnote 15] and to reduce its current 
requirements for investigating rail and maritime accidents. Figure 7 
illustrates the five transportation modes for which NTSB has 
investigative authority.[Footnote 16] The proposed technical changes 
would serve various purposes, including clarifying particular 
provisions contained in NTSB's current authorizing legislation. 

Figure 7: Aviation, Marine, Pipeline, Railroad, and Highway: 

[Refer to PDF for image: 5 photographs] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

The proposed substantive change that would allow NTSB to investigate 
incidents would affect all modes by providing explicit authority to 
investigate not only accidents, as currently prescribed, but also 
"incidents not involving destruction or damage, but affecting 
transportation safety, as the Board may prescribe or Congress may 
direct."[Footnote 17] This addition does not set forth specific 
criteria for selecting incidents to investigate, thereby increasing 
the agency's discretion. According to NTSB, this change would codify 
the agency's current practice in all modes. For example, NTSB 
investigated and reported the facts of the Northwest Airlines 
overflight of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 21, 2009, even though 
it did not meet the statutory definition of an accident.[Footnote 18] 

Other proposed substantive changes would reduce NTSB's current 
requirements for investigating maritime and rail accidents. 
Specifically, one change would eliminate the current requirement for 
NTSB or the Coast Guard to investigate all accidents involving public 
vessels or any other vessel and would provide discretion to determine 
whether and which of these accidents to investigate. Similarly, 
another proposed change would limit NTSB's responsibility for 
investigating rail accidents by establishing more stringent criteria 
for triggering the requirement to investigate. However, the proposed 
criteria do not include definitions of certain terminology and would 
thus effectively give NTSB the discretion to decide which rail 
accidents to investigate. 

Giving NTSB expanded investigatory discretion with the explicit 
authority to investigate incidents without specific criteria, while 
simultaneously limiting requirements for rail and maritime 
investigations, would allow the agency to use its professional 
judgment to determine which investigations would have the greatest 
potential to improve safety and make the most effective use of its 
resources. At the same time, however, it is important that NTSB be 
transparent in providing information about investigation criteria in 
order to assure Congress and the public that the agency's resources 
are being used to address priorities in accordance with its mission. 
Striking the right balance between discretionary and criteria based 
investigations will be important to ensure that NTSB's resources can 
be used for the work with the greatest potential to enhance 
transportation safety. 

Other proposed substantive changes are intended to more clearly define 
NTSB's and the U.S. Coast Guard's respective roles and 
responsibilities for maritime accident investigations, which are 
currently governed by a December 2008 MOU with the Coast Guard and 
jointly issued regulations.[Footnote 19] These changes could affect a 
number of existing agreements and the current governing framework, as 
well as the agencies involved. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy 
to respond to any questions you or other Members of the Subcommittee 
may have at this time. 

Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For further information on this testimony, please contact Gerald L. 
Dillingham, Ph.D. at (202) 512-2834 or by e-mail at 
dillinghamg@gao.gov or Gregory C. Wilshusen at (202) 512-6244 or 
wilshuseng@gao.gov. Individuals making key contributions to this 
testimony include Keith Cunningham, Assistant Director; Lauren 
Calhoun; Peter Del Toro; George Depaoli; Elizabeth Eisenstadt; Fred 
Evans; Steven Lozano; Mary Marshall; Charles Vrable; Jack Warner; and 
Sarah Wood. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Related GAO Products: 

National Transportation Safety Board: Reauthorization Provides an 
Opportunity to Focus on Implementing Leading Management Practices and 
Addressing Human Capital and Training Center Issues. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-183T]. Washington, D.C.: October 
29, 2009. 

National Transportation Safety Board--Application of Section 1072 of 
the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (41 U.S.C. 254) to Real 
Property Leases. B-316860. Washington, D.C.: April 29, 2009. 

National Transportation Safety Board: Progress Made in Management 
Practices, Investigation Priorities, Training Center Use, and 
Information Security, but These Areas Continue to Need Improvement. 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-652T]. Washington, 
D.C.: April 23, 2008. 

National Transportation Safety Board--Insurance for Employees 
Traveling on Official Business. B-309715. Washington, D.C.: September 
25, 2007. 

National Transportation Safety Board: Observations on the Draft 
Business Plan for NTSB's Training Center. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-866R]. Washington, D.C.: June 14, 
2007. 

National Transportation Safety Board: Progress Made, Yet Management 
Practices, Investigation Priorities, and Training Center Use Should Be 
Improved. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-118]. 
Washington, D.C.: November 22, 2006. 

National Transportation Safety Board: Preliminary Observations on the 
Value of Comprehensive Planning, and Greater Use of Leading Practices 
and the Training Academy. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-801T]. Washington, D.C.: May 24, 
2006. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] Pub. L. No. 111-117, div. A, Title III, 123 Stat. 3034, 3107 
(2009). 

[2] GAO, National Transportation Safety Board: Progress Made, yet 
Management Practices, Investigation Priorities, and Training Center 
Use Should Be Improved. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-118] (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 22, 
2006). 

[3] The National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act of 
2006, Pub. L. No. 109-443, § 5, 120 Stat. 3297, 3299, codified at 49 
U.S.C. § 1138. 

[4] GAO, National Transportation Safety Board: Preliminary 
Observations on the Value of Comprehensive Planning and Greater Use of 
Leading Practices and the Training Academy. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-06-801T] (Washington, D.C.: May 24, 
2006); [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-118]; and GAO, 
National Transportation Safety Board: Progress Made in Management 
Practices, Investigation Priorities, Training Center Use, and 
Information Security, but These Areas Continue to Need Improvement. 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-652T] (Washington, 
D.C.: Apr. 23, 2008). 

[5] NTSB, Annual Report to Congress 2008 (Washington D.C.: July 1, 
2009). 

[6] The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), 
Pub. L. No. 107-347, 116 Stat. 2899, 2946, codified as amended at 44 
U.S.C. § 3541 et seq., requires that each agency shall have performed 
an independent evaluation of the information security program and 
practices of that agency to determine their effectiveness. 44 U.S.C. § 
3545(a)(1). Agencies that do not have an Inspector General, such as 
the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), shall engage an 
independent external auditor to perform the evaluation. 44 U.S.C. § 
3545(b)(2). In fiscal years 2007 and 2008, NTSB contracted with Leon 
Snead & Company to perform the independent external audits. See Leon 
Snead & Company, P.C., National Transportation Safety Board: 
Compliance with the Requirements of the Federal Information Security 
Management Act, Fiscal Year 2007 (Sept. 24, 2007), and National 
Transportation Safety Board: Compliance with the Requirements of the 
Federal Information Security Management Act, Fiscal Year 2008 (Sept. 
29, 2008). These audits, which were submitted to the Office of 
Management and Budget as required by FISMA, identified weaknesses in 
NTSB's compliance with FISMA requirements and included an assessment 
of the agency's actions to address recommendations in prior-year FISMA 
reports. Those prior reports include U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Information Security 
Program: National Transportation Safety Board, Report No. FI-2006-001 
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 7, 2005); and Information Security Program: 
National Transportation Safety Board, Report No. FI-2007-001 
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 13, 2006). 

[7] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Management Directive 
715 provides guidance and standards to federal agencies for 
establishing and maintaining effective equal employment opportunity 
programs, including a framework for executive branch agencies to help 
ensure effective management, accountability, and self-analysis to 
determine whether barriers to equal employment opportunity exist and 
to identify and develop strategies to mitigate or eliminate the 
barriers to participation. 

[8] NTSB also has the authority to investigate any other accident 
related to the transportation of individuals or property when its 
board decides the accident is catastrophic or involves problems of a 
recurring character, or the investigation would help carry out NTSB 
authorities for accident investigation. 49 U.S.C. § 1131(a)(1)(F). 

[9] The Watch List contains accident conditions that could either 
support previous NTSB recommendations or sustain issues being 
developed in accidents currently under investigation. 

[10] NTSB conducts all of its marine, rail, pipeline, hazardous 
materials, and highway accident investigations at the scene of the 
accident. In contrast, for aviation accidents, NTSB conducts on-scene 
investigations of major accidents and more limited investigations of 
accidents not designated as major. NTSB defines a major accident as 
one that involves an issue that is related to a current safety study 
or special investigation, affects public confidence or transportation 
safety in a significant way, or is catastrophic. 

[11] 49 U.S.C. § 1116(b)(1). 

[12] Currently, The National Transportation Safety Board 
Reauthorization Act of 2009, S. 2768, 111th Cong., 2009 is pending in 
the Senate. A number of the provisions proposed by NTSB are contained 
within the bill. 

[13] "Incident" is currently defined in regulation as "an occurrence, 
other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, 
which affects or could affect the safety of operations." 49 C.F.R. § 
830.2. This change does not address the International Civil Aviation 
Organization's 2007 recommendation that the United States define 
"serious incident," as other member countries have done. 

[14] An "'accident' includes damage to or destruction of vehicles in 
surface or air transportation or pipelines, regardless of whether the 
initiating event is accidental or otherwise." 49 U.S.C. § 1101. 

[15] NTSB proposes this statutory authority to investigate "incidents" 
by requesting a definitional change that would include the term 
"incident" within the statutory definition of the term "accident." 

[16] NTSB has concurrent investigative authority with all modal 
agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the 
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the Coast Guard. The 
respective roles and responsibilities of NTSB and the modal agencies 
are set forth in laws, regulations, and/or interagency agreements. 

[17] NTSB believes this would clarify Congress' intent for the agency 
to investigate incidents. Although NTSB does not currently have 
explicit statutory authority to investigate incidents, the term 
incidents is used in other contexts within NTSB's current statutory 
authority. See, for example, 49 U.S.C. § 1116(b)(3). 

[18] National Transportation Safety Board: Operational Factors/Human 
Performance, Group Chairman's Factual Report DCA101A001. Office of 
Aviation Safety (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 4, 2009). 

[19] 49 C.F.R. part 850. 

[End of section] 

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