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Highlights

Federal civilian agencies own and operate a fleet of aging aircraft, many of which may soon need to be replaced. Agencies manage their fleets with help from guidance and policies issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Numerous audit reports have disclosed that agencies lacked accurate cost data and had acquired aircraft without adequate justification. GAO reviewed (1) the composition and costs of the federal aircraft fleet; (2) the systems and controls agencies use to ensure that they effectively and efficiently acquire and manage their aircraft fleets; and (3) the operations, maintenance, safety standards, and safety records for federal aircraft.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
General Services Administration In order to improve the completeness and accuracy of the Federal Aviation Interactive Reporting System (FAIRS) database so that it captures all aircraft program costs and is useful for conducting detailed analyses of the condition and performance of the federal aircraft fleet, the Administrator of GSA should clarify existing FAIRS guidance to agencies to identify those cost elements that all aircraft programs should report to the FAIRS system, make the reporting of those elements mandatory, and develop a mechanism to ensure that agencies comply with reporting requirements.
Closed - Implemented
During fiscal year 2004, GSA revised reporting requirements and changed FAIRS to make it mandatory for agencies to report operating costs for crew, fuel, maintenance, and overhead. GSA also agreed to continue to encourage agencies to reinforce existing policy and revise reporting rules as necessary to support compliance with reporting requirements.
General Services Administration In order to improve the completeness and accuracy of the FAIRS database so that it captures all aircraft program costs and is useful for conducting detailed analyses of the condition and performance of the federal aircraft fleet, the Administrator of GSA should expand existing FAIRS guidance to require that programs report additional aviation costs associated with acquiring aircraft, not currently required, which would provide more complete and accurate data on the composition and cost of the federal aircraft fleet and, thus, enhance GSA's annual report on federal aircraft operations. At a minimum, agencies should be required to report acquisition, financing, and self-insurance costs.
Closed - Implemented
GSA has agreed to look for options for reporting additional information on the costs involved in acquiring and keeping aircraft over time and will institute new mandatory reporting requirements or find other methods for obtaining the data.
General Services Administration In order to improve the completeness and accuracy of the FAIRS database so that it captures all aircraft program costs and is useful for conducting detailed analyses of the condition and performance of the federal aircraft fleet, the Administrator of GSA should conduct periodic testing of the FAIRS database to ensure that existing systems controls are working as designed and work with ICAP to identify, develop, and implement additional controls as necessary.
Closed - Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendation, GSA has implemented a specially designed computer program to test data "triggers," which ensure data integrity. It also is now performing manual checks to ensure that controls governing authority for users' access and data entry are working properly.
General Services Administration In order to ensure that federal aircraft programs have the capability to make sound fleet management decisions, the Administrator of GSA should direct the Interagency Committee on Aviation Policy to work with its members to develop a model fleet management planning process. At a minimum, this process should include guidance to help agencies strategically assess long-term fleet requirements, acquire the most cost-effective aircraft to meet those requirements, and continually assess fleet performance.
Closed - Implemented
Based on GAO's recommendation, GSA is looking into a "gold standard" program for federal aircraft operators based on a similar program in the civil aviation sector.
General Services Administration Given the wide variety of oversight provided these programs and the important role oversight can play in helping enhance safety, the Administrator of GSA should direct the Interagency Committee on Aviation Policy to examine the oversight being provided to federal aircraft programs and provide additional guidance, as necessary, on areas where enhanced oversight could improve the safety of federal aircraft operations.
Closed - Implemented
On November 17, 2006, GSA stated that it was in the process of releasing new guidance to federal agencies on how to oversee their aircraft operations. On, January 15, 2008, the GSA web site indicated that the "Gold Standard" program had been unveiled as guidance to help federal agencies improve and maintain the safety of the federal aircraft fleets.
Office of Management and Budget In order to help ensure that federal aircraft programs are being managed in the most cost effective manner, the Director, OMB should review current guidance relating to the acquisition and management of federal aircraft, including those associated with OMB Circulars A-76 and A-126, and develop additional guidance, as necessary, for agencies and OMB to achieve greater consistency in the management of federal aircraft programs.
Closed - Not Implemented
In its oral comments on a draft of this report, OMB agreed with the recommendation. OMB has not indicated how it will respond to the report's recommendation. However, as of January 2008, no modifications have been made to Circulars A-76 or A-126, so we are closing the recommendations as not implemented. Also, OMB did not respond to numerous attempts to contact them about this recommendation.

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