Aviation Safety:

FAA and the State Department Can Better Manage Foreign Enforcement Cases

RCED-94-87: Published: Mar 17, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed foreign air carriers' compliance with U.S. safety regulations, focusing on: (1) foreign governments' actions on enforcement cases referred by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); (2) FAA action on foreign government-referred enforcement cases; (3) foreign countries' enforcement system weaknesses and compliance with international safety standards; and (4) Department of Transportation (DOT) actions against foreign air carriers that violate departmental aviation regulations.

GAO found that: (1) foreign governments and FAA have not acted on all referred safety violations because FAA has not effectively managed its enforcement workload; (2) FAA does not track cases it refers to foreign governments or timely process some foreign authorities' referrals to FAA; (3) foreign governments did not act on 48 of the 146 cases referred to them, primarily because FAA referred the cases after the statutory time limits; (4) FAA uses the Department of State to send cases to foreign governments, but State does not track the outcome of these enforcement cases; (5) State has revised its procedures to require its embassies to follow up on FAA referrals; (6) FAA did not act on 22 of 58 foreign government-referred cases mainly because it took too long to send them to its field offices for investigation; (7) FAA has taken steps to prevent the recurrence of untimely case processing; (8) FAA and foreign governments generally do not notify each other of case dispositions; (9) foreign government enforcement weaknesses include failure to meet international safety standards and lacks of inspectors, surveillance programs, technical expertise, and regulations for taking enforcement actions or assessing civil penalties; and (10) DOT collected fines in 26 of 28 actions against foreign carriers between 1989 and 1992, and revoked two carriers' operating authority after they failed to pay their fines and committed additional violations.

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: The Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of State should work together to reach agreement on the best way to facilitate FAA efforts to address regulatory violations, including: (1) developing direct contacts between FAA and foreign aviation authorities, where appropriate and when countries are willing to do so; (2) ensuring that foreign governments are apprised of violations in sufficient time to act within the appropriate statute-of-limitation period; and (3) following up to determine whether foreign governments addressed safety violations and ensuring that responses are communicated to FAA.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of the recommendation, the State Department has established procedures that require embassy officials to follow up with foreign governments to determine the actions they plan to take on FAA enforcement case referrals. If the foreign governments have not responded to embassy officials within 180 days after the referral, FAA is to be notified so that it can determine the appropriate action to take.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to raise to the International Civil Aviation Organization's attention the legal or policy impediments that affect FAA and foreign countries' enforcement capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA proposed a resolution to the International Civil Aviation Organization calling for greater attention to international enforcement actions. The resolution was unanimously adopted by member countries. It required contracting states to reaffirm their individual responsibility for safety under the convention and to review their national legislation implementing those obligations, thus fulfilling the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to inform foreign governments of the disposition of enforcement cases that they refer to FAA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA issued a memorandum documenting the specific process, procedure and milestones for actions taken on foreign enforcement cases, thus satisfying the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to determine the final disposition of enforcement cases referred to foreign governments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA and State Department representatives conducted a series of negotiations that resulted in agreement on specific processes, procedures, and milestones for action on foreign enforcement cases. For example, the State Department will advise FAA within 90 days of any actions taken by the host government.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of State should work together to reach agreement on the best way to facilitate FAA efforts to address regulatory violations, including: (1) developing direct contacts between FAA and foreign aviation authorities, where appropriate and when countries are willing to do so; (2) ensuring that foreign governments are apprised of violations in sufficient time to act within the appropriate statute-of-limitation period; and (3) following up to determine whether foreign governments addressed safety violations and ensuring that responses are communicated to FAA.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of the recommendation, the State Department has established procedures that require embassy officials to follow up with foreign governments to determine the actions they plan to take on FAA enforcement case referrals. If the foreign governments have not responded to embassy officials within 180 days after the referral, FAA is to be notified so that it can determine the appropriate action to take.

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