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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. NWS's on-site staff is called a center weather service unit. For several years, NWS and FAA have been exploring options for improving the aviation weather services provided at en route centers. GAO agreed to (1) determine the status of the agencies' efforts to restructure aviation weather services, (2) assess the agencies' progress in establishing performance baselines in order to measure the effect of any changes, and (3) evaluate plans to address key challenges. To do so, GAO evaluated agency progress and plans and compared agency efforts with leading practices.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. 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 to define, document, and sign the agencies' recent agreements on (1) the locations of the center weather service units, (2) immediate improvements in aviation weather services and operating hours, and (3) the development of an implementation plan for improvements through 2015.
Closed - Implemented
In official responses to the GAO report, both the National Weather Service (NWS) and FAA reaffirmed the commitments they made in July 2010 on the location of the center weather service units, immediate improvements in aviation weather services and operating hours, and the establishment of an implementation plan. Further, in October 2010, the two agencies signed an interagency agreement documenting the locations of the center weather service units and, in November 2010, established a roadmap documenting future improvement plans.
Department of Commerce 2. 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 to ensure that NWS regularly tracks progress, documents performance baselines, and reports on its format consistency, forecast accuracy, and training performance measures.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with the recommendation and as of June 2014, NWS provided evidence that it is tracking its key performance measures, has a baseline for them, and reports its performance results to FAA. The ability to track the center weather service unit's performance will better allow the agencies to determine the value currently provided and to assess the impact of any operational changes.
Department of Commerce 3. 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 to ensure that NWS develops a reliable customer satisfaction baseline by refining the questions used during annual evaluations, so that comparable information is collected from year to year, and revising the scoring process to ensure that scores accurately reflect each center's performance.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with this recommendation. The National Weather Service (NWS) has refined its annual evaluations to ensure that comparable information is collected from year to year and accurately reflects each center's performance. Further, in 2011, NWS developed a reliable customer service baseline using this process.
Department of Transportation 4. 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 to ensure that NWS develops a reliable customer satisfaction baseline by refining the questions used during annual evaluations, so that comparable information is collected from year to year, and revising the scoring process to ensure that scores accurately reflect each center's performance.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with this recommendation. The National Weather Service (NWS) has refined its annual evaluations to ensure that comparable information is collected from year to year and accurately reflects each center's performance. Further, in 2011, NWS developed a reliable customer service baseline using this process.
Department of Commerce 5. 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 to define, document, and sign the agencies' recent agreements on (1) the locations of the center weather service units, (2) immediate improvements in aviation weather services and operating hours, and (3) the development of an implementation plan for improvements through 2015.
Closed - Implemented
In official responses to the GAO report, both the National Weather Service (NWS) and FAA reaffirmed the commitments they made in July 2010 on the location of the center weather service units, immediate improvements in aviation weather services and operating hours, and the establishment of an implementation plan. Further, in October 2010, the two agencies signed an interagency agreement documenting the locations of the center weather service units and, in November 2010, established a roadmap documenting future improvement plans.
Department of Transportation 6. 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 to ensure that NWS regularly tracks progress, documents performance baselines, and reports on its format consistency, forecast accuracy, and training performance measures.
Closed - Implemented
The agency agreed with the recommendation and as of June 2014, NWS provided evidence that it is tracking its key performance measures, has a baseline for them, and reports its performance results to FAA. The ability to track the center weather service unit's performance will better allow the agencies to determine the value currently provided and to assess the impact of any operational changes.

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