The National Airspace System (NAS) is a complex network of airports, aircraft, air traffic control (ATC) facilities, employees, and pilots. The aviation industry, which depends on the NAS, contributes about 9 percent to the gross domestic product. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), funded through a tax-financed trust fund and General Fund appropriations, is pursuing a multibillion-dollar modernization program. Persistent cost, schedule, and/or performance shortfalls have kept this program on GAO's list of high-risk programs since 1995. GAO was asked to review the status of NAS modernization. This report addresses NAS status by identifying the challenges that FAA faces in managing (1) infrastructure, (2) human capital, and (3) financial resources.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. To provide Congress with accurate information on the resources needed to hire and train thousands of air traffic controllers over the next decade, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to estimate the cost of FAA's controller hiring and training plan and incorporate these estimates into future budget requests.|
|Department of Transportation||2. To ensure that FAA provides the long-term focus needed for an effective cultural transformation, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to provide sustained oversight of efforts to transform FAA's workforce culture to one that is more results-oriented, including periodically monitoring the agency's progress against baseline data.|
|Department of Transportation||3. To position FAA to best meet NAS needs in both the near term, and the longer term, the Secretary should direct the FAA Administrator to balance current and long-term investment priorities.|
|Department of Transportation||4. To position FAA to best meet NAS needs in both the near term, and the longer term, the Secretary should direct the FAA Administrator to use all available management tools and, after establishing a record of improved financial management, explore more fundamental changes that could provide greater financial management flexibility.|