FAA Staffing:

New Pay Act Offers Options to Bolster Maintenance Work Force

RCED-91-92: Published: Apr 2, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 1991.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) shortage of technicians for maintaining the air traffic control (ATC) system, focusing on: (1) whether the shortages adversely affected ATC operations; and (2) FAA plans to increase its maintenance capability.

GAO found that: (1) FAA had been hiring new staff to replace retired technicians since 1987, but the 3- to 5-year training requirement and an increasing work load reduced FAA maintenance capability; (2) FAA took measures to preserve a reliable ATC system by relying more on contractors for equipment maintenance, increasing overtime usage, and reducing maintenance coverage; (3) although some operational problems have occurred, overall system reliability and safety have not greatly deteriorated; (4) since 1987, ATC system outages caused only about 2 percent of total aircraft delays; (5) to further enhance its maintenance capability, FAA proposed to spend about $118 million between fiscal years 1992 and 1996 to supplement its in-house maintenance technician work force with contractor personnel to maintain existing equipment as it installs modernized ATC systems; (6) FAA expected its maintenance work load to decline from 1991 through 1995; and (7) since FAA developed its proposal, Congress authorized other financial incentives under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 that could help FAA bolster technician staffing.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOT policy is to meet maintenance needs in the most effective and cost-beneficial manner.

    Recommendation: Should additional maintenance technician support be needed, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to use the most effective and cost-beneficial mix of contractor support and options authorized by the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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