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Highlights

Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on: (1) the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) monitoring of general aviation airports' compliance with federal land-use requirements; and (2) FAA's use of enforcement tools to resolve cases of noncompliance.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation 1. To effectively implement the internal controls contained in FAA's compliance policy, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to revise current compliance policy guidance to airports to require regularly scheduled monitoring methods that provide for periodic on-site visits. In conjunction with periodic on-site visits, the monitoring component could include requiring periodic self-certifications of compliance from all airports and formally coordinating with interested parties who may have information about airports' compliance, such as general aviation organization field representatives. In addition, FAA should provide specific criteria for initiating enforcement action and set reasonable timeframes for taking progressively stronger enforcement actions in cases in which efforts to achieve voluntary corrective action are unsuccessful.
Closed - Implemented
In 2000, FAA revised its compliance policy guidance to provide for on-site inspections, as recommended by GAO. In 2001, FAA began its program of 18 field visits per year (two visits per region per year). FAA also disseminated policy directing FAA field offices to resolve informal complaints and address potential items of noncompliance at federally obligated airports. In 2000, FAA completed its report to Congress detailing its planned compliance efforts as required by the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment Reform Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 106-181).
Department of Transportation 2. In those cases of noncompliance that FAA cannot resolve in a reasonable period of time, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to apply the enforcement tools already provided by Congress by holding field offices accountable for taking enforcement actions, particularly in cases of long-term, repeated, or willful unauthorized land or revenue use.
Closed - Implemented
While FAA did not concur with the recommendation to hold field offices accountable for taking timely enforcement actions (because field offices share accountability with headquarters), FAA's current policy holds the headquarters Airports Compliance Division primarily responsible for "resolving matters that involve the Federal obligations of airport sponsors contained in their Federal grant assurances, documents transferring Federal property to airport sponsors for airport purposes, and appropriate Federal legislation."
Department of Transportation 3. Until FAA develops and implements a compliance and enforcement program that provides adequate internal control over airports' compliance with federal requirements, the Administrator, FAA, should determine whether the internal control weakness disclosed in this report should be included when providing information to the Secretary for inclusion in the Secretary's annual report to the President and Congress, as required by the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.
Closed - Implemented
FAA reviewed the cases identified by GAO, concluded that they do not constitute a material weakness, and did not meet the criteria to be included in the Secretary's annual report to the President and Congress.
Department of Transportation 4. The Administrator, FAA, should resolve long-standing instances of noncompliance and revenue diversion by taking enforcement action to protect the public investment in aviation at the Queen City Municipal Airport and at Bader Field. FAA should also require that Kansas City obtain a fair market appraisal of the value of airport land and, upon closing Richards-Gebaur Memorial Airport, reinvest an amount equal to the appraised value in local area airports to promote aviation, as required by FAA's policy.
Closed - Implemented
Regarding the long-standing instance of non-compliance and revenue diversion at the Queen City Municipal Airport, FAA said that, with the assistance of the Attorney Generals' office, they had reached a settlement with Queen City Airport officials that resolved non-compliant use of airport land and transferred ownership of the airport to a new owner. Regarding the long-standing instance of non-compliance and revenue diversion at the Bader Field, FAA said that its field office had obtained agreement from the airport sponsor to continue operation of the airport until its federal obligations expire in six years.

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