Aviation Research:

FAA Could Enhance Its Program to Meet Current and Future Challenges

RCED-92-180: Published: Jun 3, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Research, Engineering, and Development (RE&D) Program, focusing on: (1) FAA progress in implementing legislation that requires it to submit annual plans for RE&D projects, expand long-term research efforts in certain critical areas, and establish a research advisory committee; (2) long-term research efforts undertaken during fiscal year (FY) 1991; and (3) factors affecting FAA ability to meet its RE&D goals.

GAO found that FAA: (1) has expanded research in aircraft structures, human factors, and simulation modelling; (2) established a research advisory committee; (3) developed a draft RE&D plan, but did not include detailed cost and staffing estimates for projects; (4) obligated 83 percent of its FY 1991 research funds for short-term projects; (5) classified several short-term projects as long-term and overestimated the funds spent on long-term research; and (6) does not use the Department of Transportation's Departmental Accounting and Financial Information System (DAFIS) to track long-term projects and resources. GAO believes that: (1) FAA will not be able to achieve its ambitious RE&D goals solely through its research and development efforts, and will need to rely on ongoing capital investment, airport development projects, and industry cooperation to achieve all of its goals; and (2) interrelated factors that will affect program success include incorporation of RE&D goals into other FAA program areas, FAA use of research conducted by other federal agencies and private organizations, system engineering and integration considerations, and attention to the role and prevention of human error in accidents.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 1993, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology reaffirmed its commitment to long-term aviation research and included language in the Federal Aviation Administration's Research, Engineering, and Development Authorization Act of 1993 that at least 15 percent of FAA's RE&D budget must be allocated to long-term research.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider mandating that some portion of the FAA RE&D budget be allocated to long-term research as it did for FY 1989 and FY 1990. In doing so, Congress may wish to consider including in its definition for long-term research the demands being placed on the RE&D Program for shaping the future air transport system and its safety, security, and efficiency.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because of various changes that have occurred, a fresh look needs to be taken at the status of DAFIS and further changes needed.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring FAA to provide long-term research resource information in its annual budget submissions. This action will help ensure that FAA RE&D activities clearly distinguish between resources devoted to short- and long-term research.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has incorporated RE&D goals into the Capital Investment Plan.

    Recommendation: To improve FAA management and provide Congress with better information on the RE&D Program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to either integrate the RE&D goals into the Capital Investment Plan and other agency efforts that rely heavily on the RE&D Program or adopt goals that are directly achievable by the RE&D Program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT believes that appropriate information is included in its annual budget submission to Congress.

    Recommendation: To improve FAA management and provide Congress with better information on the RE&D Program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to include cost and staffing information in the RE&D Plan as required by the Aviation Safety Research Act of 1988.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Because of various changes that have occurred, a fresh look needs to be taken at the status of DAFIS and further changes needed.

    Recommendation: To improve FAA management and provide Congress with better information on the RE&D Program, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a method, utilizing DAFIS or other internal systems, for tracking the funding for long-term research.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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