Airport Improvement Program:

The Military Airport Program Has Not Achieved Intended Impact

RCED-94-209: Published: Jun 30, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Military Airport Program (MAP), focusing on whether the: (1) Secretary of Transportation selected MAP airports in accordance with program goals; and (2) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has effectively allocated MAP funds to ensure that they are having their intended impact.

GAO found that: (1) 9 of the 12 MAP airports do not meet program goals of increasing system capacity and converting current or former military airports to joint or full civilian use; (2) FAA felt pressured to select the maximum number of military airports for conversion despite its confusion about what types of airports the program was intended to assist and lack of an inventory of potential candidates; (3) five MAP airports are not located in congested metropolitan areas and are unlikely to increase capacity; (4) nine airports are already operating as joint or civilian airports and many of them already have the facilities the program was designed to develop; and (5) FAA has allocated only 23 percent of MAP funding to conversion-related projects and is funding relatively low-priority projects at many airports that no longer have conversion needs.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1994, Congress changed from 12 to 15 the number of airports the Secretary of Transportation could designate to participate in MAP. Also, the Secretary could only designate for participation in MAP, airports that FAA determined would reduce delays at an airport with more than 20,000 hours of annual delays. For fiscal year 1996, Congress set a cap on MAP funding, cutting MAP from 2.5 percent of the total AIP allocation (the authorized formula level) to a cap of $26 million, or 1.8 percent of the total AIP allocation.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider two options for improving the targeting of MAP funds within the national airport system. First, to better guide FAA in selecting future MAP airports, Congress may wish to limit participation in the program to those airports: (1) that are located in FAA-defined congested areas; and (2) whose first civilian use occurred after the 1988 and later base closure and realignment processes. A second option would be to retain a financial cap on the set-aside, but give FAA the discretion to adjust downward the number of participating airports or the overall MAP funding level, on the basis of ongoing needs assessments at each airport and an evaluation of progress on measurable program goals. Those funds deemed no longer necessary for program-related needs could be made available for other discretionary uses under the broader Airport Improvement Program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was predicated on a requirement that in order for military airports to be considered for conversion as reliever airports, they needed to be located near an existing commercial airport that was experiencing over 20,000 hours of delay annually. However, the 104th Congress eliminated the requirement in the 1996 Airport Improvement Program Reauthorization.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to determine the impact of the program in reducing congestion and enhancing capacity in major metropolitan areas and provide the results and recommendations to Congress as a basis for possible changes to the program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA has required that all airports participating in the program submit a 5-year capital plan that identifies conversion- and capacity-related projects that require MAP funds. FAA has graduated 7 of the 12 MAP airports from the program because they had participated for 5 years and were no longer eligible for MAP funds. By the end of fiscal year 1997, FAA expects that the five remaining airports will have graduated.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop an implementation plan for each MAP airport that includes: (1) cataloging conversion-related needs; (2) deciding which of those needs will receive program funding and in what order; and (3) establishing graduation dates linked to a level of civilian service achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA completed its analysis in 1998, but continually updates its list of airports in concert with information gathered from the Department of Defense and individual communities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to complete, before additional program selections are made, the legislatively required survey to identify a comprehensive list of current and former military airports with the greatest potential to improve systemwide capacity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The guidelines and criteria for the fiscal year 1996 MAP were published in the Federal Register on October 24, 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to define what constitutes a congestion-reducing or conversion-related need and base future MAP participation and funding decisions on these criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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