Department of the Interior:

Office of Aircraft Services and Bureaus Can More Fully Recover and Further Reduce Aviation Program Costs

GAO-02-460: Published: Apr 17, 2002. Publicly Released: May 17, 2002.

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The Department of the Interior has cut its aviation accident rate in half since 1975--from 18.8 accidents to 8.7 per 100,000 flight hours. The department's lower accident rate can be attributed to the implementation of a standard aviation operating policy and to aviation safety standards that exceed the Federal Aviation Administration's requirements. The Office of Aircraft Services (OAS) has not fully recovered aviation program costs. From fiscal years 1999 to 2000, OAS has charged bureaus about $4 million less than actual costs, representing an undercharge of about two percent. OAS set rates that were based on flight hour projections of actual usage that turned out to be low, and OAS did not include all the cost elements that needed to be considered. Periodic monitoring of the rates and actual costs would ensure that all costs are recovered. OAS has yet to develop a more cost-effective approach for using aircraft. To cut costs, OAS has reduced its staffing levels by 24 percent since 1992.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that all program costs are fully recovered and to improve the rate-setting process, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior should direct OAS to obtain forecasts of future usage from the bureaus and use these forecasts, as well as other relevant information, to set rates.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2003, OAS implemented a new planning process to determine the projected flight hours to be used for rate setting purposes. OAS and the DOI Bureaus established a goal for actual aircraft use to be within plus or minus 10 percent of the projected use. Variances of greater than 10 percent will be analyzed and futures aircraft rates adjusted as needed.

    Recommendation: To ensure that all program costs are fully recovered and to improve the rate-setting process, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior should direct OAS and the bureaus, upon completion of the rate-setting process and calculation of associated payments, to determine whether the rates recovered all costs and, if not, whether adjustments in the process used to calculate the rates are necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Actual aircraft costs exceeding more than plus or minus 10 percent of the estimated costs will be reviewed to establish the relative accuracy of cost and inflation data used in the rate computation and to identify factors contributing to the variance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of the Interior should instruct the directors of OAS and of each bureau to improve scheduling and use of aircraft and establish performance measures to monitor and assess progress.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OAS published a strategic plan to address GAO's recommendations. This plan includes performance goals and measures related to aircraft scheduling and use. The plan will be implemented during 2004 and 2005.

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