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Highlights

The National Weather Service's (NWS) weather products are a vital component of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) air traffic control system. In addition to providing aviation weather products developed at its own facilities, NWS also provides staff on-site at each of FAA's en route centers. This group of NWS meteorologists--called a center weather service unit--provides air traffic managers with forecasts and briefings on regional conditions including turbulence, icing, and freezing precipitation. GAO agreed to (1) determine the status of NWS's plans for restructuring the offices that provide aviation weather services at FAA's en route centers, (2) identify FAA's requirements and its alternative sources for these services, and (3) evaluate both agencies' current abilities to ensure the consistency and quality of these services. To do so, GAO evaluated agency plans for restructuring offices, defining requirements, and ensuring quality products, and interviewed agency officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Weather Service 1. While many steps remain in defining the future of aviation weather services at en route centers--including negotiations between FAA and NWS on the provision of these services and FAA's subsequent decision on whether to obtain selected services from alternative sources--there are steps both agencies can take to ensure that the quality of future aviation weather products and services are measured and evaluated. The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Assistant Administrator for the National Weather Service to assist FAA in developing performance measures and metrics for the products and services to be provided by center weather service units.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with this recommendation. The National Weather Service (NWS) developed and FAA agreed to a set of five performance measures in order to measure products and services to be provided by center weather service units. The five measures are product participation, format consistency, briefing service provision, organizational service provision, and forecast accuracy.
National Weather Service 2. While many steps remain in defining the future of aviation weather services at en route centers--including negotiations between FAA and NWS on the provision of these services and FAA's subsequent decision on whether to obtain selected services from alternative sources--there are steps both agencies can take to ensure that the quality of future aviation weather products and services are measured and evaluated. The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Assistant Administrator for the National Weather Service to perform annual evaluations of aviation weather services provided at en route centers and provide feedback to the center weather service units.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with our recommendation. In 2009, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began conducting annual site evaluations of the work performed by NWS meteorologists at each of the 21 FAA en route centers. The results of these evaluations were provided as feedback to each of the center weather service units.
Federal Aviation Administration 3. Further, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to work with NWS to define performance measures and metrics for aviation weather services provided by meteorologists.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with our recommendation. In December 2008, FAA established five performance measures for evaluating the products and services provided by the meteorologists in NWS center weather service units.
Federal Aviation Administration 4. Further, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to work with NWS to evaluate the services it receives against those measures and metrics.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with our recommendation. In December 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established five performance measures for the products and services provided by the National Weather Service's (NWS) center weather service units. In 2009, NWS and FAA began conducting annual site evaluations of the center weather service units. The results of these evaluations were provided as feedback to each center weather service unit.
Federal Aviation Administration 5. Further, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to work with NWS to ensure that results of these evaluations are provided to staff stationed at center weather service units so that they can improve performance, where applicable.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with our recommendation. In 2009, NWS and FAA began conducting annual site evaluations of the center weather service units. The results of these evaluations were provided as feedback to each center weather service unit.

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