Human Factors:

Status of Efforts to Integrate Research on Human Factors Into FAA's Activities

RCED-96-151: Published: Jun 27, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 1996.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) organizational structure for incorporating human factors into aviation-related research.

GAO found that: (1) FAA has incorporated a human factors policy order, a Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for human factors, and guidance for considering human factors in the acquisition process; (2) the order assigns responsibility for ensuring that human factors are considered in FAA research activities, but does not establish minimal standards for meeting this requirement; (3) recent legislative and organizational changes may affect the application of human factors research in FAA acquisitions and operations; (4) the FAA Acquisition Management System considers human factors at an earlier stage in the acquisition process, but there is no mention of the extent to which such factors should be considered; (5) the FAA Human Factors Division (HFD) consults with other members of the aviation community and participates in industry task forces and conferences to identify issues associated with human factors in aviation; (6) HFD solicits ideas for research from FAA acquisition and operating units and is responsible for internal and external coordination of FAA research; (7) HFD allocates most FAA funding for core research, and enters into interagency agreements with the National Space and Aeronautics Administration and the Department of Defense to coordinate the agencies' human factors research; and (8) the possibility of duplicating human factors research exists because FAA units are not required to coordinate their research activities.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA's Human Factors Division has been sending emails twice a month to keep other FAA organizations informed regarding ongoing human factors work. Additionally, on November 17, 1997, the Administrator sent a memorandum to all the associate administrators informing them that they must ensure that each unit within their purview continues its efforts to coordinate information regarding any human factors endeavors with the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Human Factors.

    Recommendation: To reduce the possibility of duplication and maximize the opportunity to leverage resources for research on human factors, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to ensure that all units within FAA coordinate their research through the agency's Human Factors Division.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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