Watchdog Blasts 20 Years of FAA Spending More, Achieving Less

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials failed to reduce costs and improve efficiency because their most vital programs are consistently over budget and behind schedule, according to a government watchdog.

FAA’s productivity has decreased and its costs have risen over the past two decades, even though the agency made internal changes that were supposed to have the opposite effect, the Department of Transportation Inspector General said in a report made public Wednesday.

“While FAA has implemented the provisions of past reform legislation, these efforts have not achieved anticipated cost savings and operational efficiencies,” the report said. “Costs continue to rise while operational productivity has declined.”

In fact, FAA’s budget nearly doubled from $8.1 billion to nearly $16 billion between 1996 and 2012, but its “workforce remained relatively constant,” and “the number of air traffic facilities the agency operates has not changed since 2000,” the report said.

“FAA’s disappointing reform outcomes are largely the result of the agency’s failure to take full advantage of its authorities when implementing new personnel systems, and not using business-like practices to improve its operational efficiency and cost effectiveness,” the report said.

FAA, for example, created an accounting system, but officials don’t regularly analyze it to reduce costs or improve productivity. Also, FAA’s organizational culture, “has been resistant to change.”

The report said “major projects continue to experience problems that delay the introduction of new technologies.” For example, “The multi-billion dollar En Route Automation System has experienced delays of nearly 4 years and cost growth of over $400 million.”

The FAA’s failure to launch the En Route Automation System (ERAM) had a “cascading effect” and nearly caused a “catastrophic” failure, The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.

ERAM is part of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System – better known as NextGen – which has faced “several underlying and systemic issues – including overambitious plans, shifting requirements, software development problems, ineffective contract and program management, and unreliable cost and schedule estimates,” the report said.

The FAA IG riddled its report with examples of NextGen projects that were delayed for years and skyrocketed in costs, as TheDCNF previously reported.

“Historically, FAA has committed to overambitious testing schedules involving simultaneous development and deployment that became untenable when technical difficulties with software arose,” the report said. Meanwhile, FAA’s reports on such projects “masks many past cost, schedule, and other performance problems.”

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