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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) plans to close and contract out low-activity air traffic control towers, focusing on: (1) the potential savings that could result from such actions; (2) the factors that could impede FAA plans; and (3) actions FAA can take to enhance its strategy for reassigning controllers from closed or contracted out towers.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to establish procedures to ensure that the new FAA policy to close towers that do not meet benefit-cost criteria for a 2-year period is effectively implemented.
Closed - Implemented
FAA has established procedures for converting towers to private operation that do not meet the benefit-cost criteria. To date, two such towers have been converted.
Department of Transportation 2. The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a strategy for reassigning controllers from contractor-operated towers to understaffed facilities and for minimizing overstaffing at other towers to be contracted out after fiscal year 1994.
Closed - Implemented
FAA has developed a strategy for reassigning controllers from contracted out facilities to understaffed facilities. In fact, in May 1994, FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the controller union, signed a memorandum of understanding that established procedures for reassigning Level 1 controllers from contractor-operated towers. Under this agreement, controllers can only be reassigned to a facility based on the availability of meaningful training and work. Per FAA officials, this means controllers will only be reassigned to understaffed facilities. As of August 1997, this MOU remains in effect

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