Aviation Safety:

FAA Has Not Fully Implemented Weather-Related Recommendations

RCED-98-130: Published: Jun 2, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1998.

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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) efforts to implement the weather-related recommendations made by the National Research Council (NRC) and FAA's advisory committee, focusing on: (1) policy and leadership; (2) interagency coordination; (3) meeting different types of users' needs for weather information; and (4) the level of funding provided for weather activities.

GAO noted that: (1) the panel of experts GAO convened concluded that FAA had made limited progress in implementing the weather-related recommendations made by NRC and FAA's advisory committee; (2) regarding the first area of concern, policy and leadership, the reports concluded that FAA is the agency best suited for leading federal aviation weather efforts but that it had not accepted that role; (3) the NRC report linked this criticism to the dispersal of responsibilities among several FAA organizations; (4) the reports also concluded that FAA did not have clear policy guidance to define its role in aviation weather activities; (5) since 1995, FAA has attempted to address these twin concerns by creating a new organization to direct aviation weather activities and by issuing a policy that states that FAA takes the responsibility for leading aviation weather activities; (6) GAO's expert panel concluded that because FAA has not yet produced a plan to implement the new policy, its actions did not go far enough to address the concerns that the report originally raised; (7) with regard to the second concern, interagency coordination, the reports questioned the adequacy of FAA's efforts to coordinate aviation weather activities with other federal agencies; (8) concerning the third area--FAA's efforts to meet the needs all types of users--the reports concluded that FAA was not providing consistent information or adequate training; (9) as evidence that it is meeting the needs of all types of users, FAA cited a list of systems it is developing to provide weather information to various users and a list of the training courses it offers; (10) GAO's expert panel expressed continuing concerns about whether the equipment FAA listed would form an integrated system to serve all users; (11) panelists also raised concerns about the training offered by FAA, stating that better training could help reduce disparities in the abilities of air traffic controllers to interpret weather information; (12) with respect to the amount of funding FAA has allocated for aviation weather activities, the reports raised questions about the low level of funding provided to weather-related projects compared with other activities; and (13) GAO's review of FAA's budget information for fiscal year (FY) 1990 through FY 1998 confirms that the agency has allocated less funding for aviation weather during this period than for most other acquisition and research priorities.