Aviation Safety:

FAA Generally Agrees With but Is Slow in Implementing Safety Recommendations

RCED-96-193: Published: Sep 23, 1996. Publicly Released: Oct 23, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) responsiveness to aviation safety-related recommendations made by GAO, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of the Inspector General (IG).

GAO found that: (1) FAA generally concurred with the recommendations made by GAO, NTSB, and DOT's Inspector General and had implemented the majority (64 percent) of them as of October 1995; (2) however, FAA met the established implementation time frames only about one-third of the time for GAO's and the DOT Inspector General's recommendations; (3) GAO could not readily measure FAA's on-time performance for NTSB's recommendations because FAA had not included in most of its initial responses to NTSB the estimated time frames for implementing most of NTSB's recommendations that GAO reviewed; (4) while FAA's initial responses to NTSB's and the DOT Inspector General's recommendations were almost always made within the required time frames, FAA never met the statutory time frames for responding to the congressional committees on GAO's recommendations included in this review, nor did it establish the required completion dates for some of GAO's and the majority of NTSB's recommendations included in this review; (5) delays in initially responding to recommendations may slow FAA's progress in taking actions to resolve the issues that led to the recommendations, and without estimated completion dates, there are no milestones against which implementation progress can be measured; (6) for the 18 specific recommendations on which GAO conducted detailed field work, FAA has taken actions on or had actions in process on 17 of them to improve its aircraft certification process, its airline inspections, its oversight of foreign carriers, and the safety of airport runways; (7) however, GAO found that the status shown in the tracking systems for some of NTSB's recommendations did not reflect the actual status of on-the-ground actions; (8) of the seven recommendations by NTSB that GAO reviewed in the field, five were listed in the tracking systems as closed (i.e., implemented by FAA); and (9) but, for four of these five recommendations, actions remained to be completed, primarily by affected airports, to fully resolve the problems that gave rise to the recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT concurred with this recommendation and stated that it is DOT's and FAA's policy that milestones for actions to be taken in response to GAO and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations be included in recommendation responses. DOT said that it will take actions on a continuing basis to ensure that all future GAO recommendation replies include appropriate milestones. DOT added that it will continue to work with NTSB to keep it informed of timeframes. DOT believes that no specific additional actions are necessary to achieve the above actions.

    Recommendation: To enhance the timeliness of FAA implementation of GAO and NTSB recommendations, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to ensure that initial responses to GAO and NTSB include the expected target dates for completion of actions to implement recommendations with which FAA agrees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT concurred with the recommendation and said it will continue to innovate and refine its processes to ensure that the Congress and OMB receive high quality and timely responses to GAO recommendations. However, DOT has not met the 60-day requirement for responding to four of the five reports containing recommendations that GAO has issued since September 1996.

    Recommendation: To enhance the timeliness of FAA implementation of GAO and NTSB recommendations, the Secretary of Transportation should take the necessary steps, in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary, to ensure that responses to congressional committees on GAO products are made within the 60-day timeframe required by law.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT concurred with this recommendation and stated that the recommended actions are conducted on a continuous basis. It stated that its technical program offices in FAA monitor the effectiveness of the manner in which final implementation may be completed and that it is not necessary to create a new regular reporting process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should instruct the Administrator, FAA, to periodically monitor the implementation of critical safety recommendations and the actions needed to fully resolve the problems that gave rise to the recommendations at the field level and report the status to Congress and the agency that made the recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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