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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 on-site staff at each of FAA's en route centers--the facilities that control high-altitude flight outside the airport tower and terminal areas. Over the last few years, FAA and NWS have been exploring options for enhancing the efficiency of the aviation weather services provided at en route centers. GAO agreed to (1) determine the status and plans of efforts to restructure the center weather service units, (2) evaluate efforts to establish a baseline of the current performance provided by these units, and (3) evaluate challenges to restructuring them. To do so, GAO evaluated agency plans for the restructuring and for establishing performance measures. GAO also compared agency efforts to leading practices and interviewed agency officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to immediately identify the current level of performance for the five potential measures that could be identified under current operations (forecast accuracy, customer satisfaction, service delivery conformity, timeliness of on-demand services, and training completion) so that there will be a baseline from which to measure the impact of any proposed operational changes.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Two of the five measures are no longer applicable because they were based on a previous National Weather Service (NWS) proposal that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not accept. Three of the measures (forecast accuracy, customer satisfaction, and training completion) are still relevant. Of the three measures, NWS has established a baseline for two measures and has taken steps on the third. Specifically, NWS has established a baseline for its customer satisfaction and forecast accuracy measures.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to immediately identify the current level of performance for the five potential measures that could be identified under current operations (forecast accuracy, customer satisfaction, service delivery conformity, timeliness of on-demand services, and training completion) so that there will be a baseline from which to measure the impact of any proposed operational changes.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Two of the five measures are no longer applicable because they were based on a previous National Weather Service (NWS) proposal that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not accept. Three of the measures (forecast accuracy, customer satisfaction, and training completion) are still relevant. Of the three measures, NWS has established a baseline for two measures and has taken steps on the third. Specifically, NWS has established a baseline for its customer satisfaction and forecast accuracy measures.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to establish and approve a set of performance measures for the center weather service units.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. NWS developed and FAA agreed to a set of five performance measures--product participation, format consistency, briefing service provision, organizational service provision, and forecast accuracy--in order to measure products and services to be provided by center weather service units.
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to establish and approve a set of performance measures for the center weather service units.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. NWS developed and FAA agreed to a set of five performance measures--product participation, format consistency, briefing service provision, organizational service provision, and forecast accuracy--in order to measure products and services to be provided by center weather service units.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to improve interagency collaboration by defining a common outcome, establishing joint strategies to achieve the outcome, and agreeing upon each agency's responsibilities.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with our recommendation. In an interagency agreement, dated October 2010, NWS and FAA defined a common outcome for its center weather service units. The agencies further solidified the common outcome by creating a joint FAA-NWS Traffic Flow Management Weather Requirements working group that established joint strategies for aviation weather as a whole (including center weather service units), as well as agreeing upon each agency's responsibilities.
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to improve interagency collaboration by defining a common outcome, establishing joint strategies to achieve the outcome, and agreeing upon each agency's responsibilities.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with our recommendation. In an interagency agreement, dated October 2010, NWS and FAA defined a common outcome for its center weather service units. The agencies further solidified the common outcome by creating a joint FAA-NWS Traffic Flow Management Weather Requirements working group that established joint strategies for aviation weather as a whole (but including center weather service units), as well as agreeing upon each agency's responsibilities.
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to establish and finalize requirements for aviation weather services at en route centers.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. In July 2011, as part of a joint FAA/NWS working group, FAA and NWS established and finalized near term requirements for traffic flow management aviation weather, including en route centers.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to establish and finalize requirements for aviation weather services at en route centers.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. In July 2011, as part of a joint FAA/NWS working group, FAA and NWS established and finalized near term requirements for traffic flow management aviation weather, including en route centers.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to ensure that any proposed organizational changes are aligned with NextGen initiatives by seeking a review by the Joint Program Development Office responsible for developing the NextGen vision.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. In July 2010, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to create a joint working group to develop requirements for aviation weather services and an implementation plan that extends through 2015. This team subsequently created a joint project plan roadmap to carry out the two agencies' agreements. This document details the continuing collaborations with the Joint Planning and Development Office, as well as NWS and FAA NextGen program offices, to ensure successful implementation with NextGen.
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to, before moving forward with any proposed operational changes, address implementation challenges by (1) developing a feasible schedule that includes adequate time for stakeholder involvement, (2) undertaking a comprehensive demonstration to ensure no services are degraded, and (3) effectively transitioning the infrastructure and technologies to the new consolidated structure.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

The agency agreed with the recommendation but did not implement it because the National Weather Service (NWS) and FAA are not proceeding with any operational changes to their aviation weather operations.
Department of Commerce To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to, before moving forward with any proposed operational changes, address implementation challenges by (1) developing a feasible schedule that includes adequate time for stakeholder involvement, (2) undertaking a comprehensive demonstration to ensure no services are degraded, and (3) effectively transitioning the infrastructure and technologies to the new consolidated structure.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

The agency agreed with the recommendation but did not implement it because the National Weather Service (NWS) and FAA are not proceeding with any operational changes to their aviation weather operations.
Department of Transportation To improve the aviation weather products and services provided at FAA's en route centers, the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation should direct the NWS and FAA administrators, respectively, to ensure that any proposed organizational changes are aligned with NextGen initiatives by seeking a review by the Joint Program Development Office responsible for developing the NextGen vision.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

The agency agreed with this recommendation. In July 2010, the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) agreed to create a joint working group to develop requirements for aviation weather services and an implementation plan that extends through 2015. This team subsequently created a joint project plan roadmap to carry out the two agencies' agreements. This document details the continuing collaborations with the Joint Planning and Development Office, as well as NWS and FAA NextGen program offices, to ensure successful implementation with NextGen.

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