The FAA Should Put Public Safety Before Political Correctness

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Frank Ricci New Haven Battalion Chief, Union President
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has dived into the deep well of identity politics at the expense of the flying public. Brought to light by The Daily Caller’s co-founder Tucker Carlson, the FAA is circumventing the merit system in an attempt to social engineer Air Traffic Controllers.

Achieving diversity is a laudable goal, but achieving diversity at the expense of the merit system is dangerous. When it comes to positions of consequence, the public’s safety must trump political correctness.     

The FAA has decided that equal opportunity is not enough, and now they are seeking equal outcomes. In an overt attempt to level the playing field, they are awarding points to the test for playing sports.

While the FAA will argue that this point system is race-neutral (and they are correct), their testing system will artificially increase the test scores of all races without regard to merit in the interest of diversity. Only the public’s interest is vested in the safety of the traveling public.

When you board a plane, you want the very best pilot, crew and air traffic controller. Have you ever even once thought about the person’s race in these critical roles?

Any exam should be job-related, meeting business necessity by measuring the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities of the test-taker.

The exam should also test for the aptitude of learning critical information that the potential employee will receive and be trained on in future. Any candidate should undergo a strenuous background check and have their experience and education evaluated.   

Bureaucrats and politicians should know that you cannot fix the ills of society at a public safety level. The key to achieving diversity is community outreach and quality education at all the grade levels.

The government’s belief that citizens should be reduced to racial statics is flawed and only divides people who don’t wish to be divided. The left must learn that it is impossible to lift someone up while holding them down. No one deserves to obtain a job under a cloud of suspicion; this just sets them up for failure and does not foster the very inclusiveness they are trying to achieve.

If discrimination, racism, cronyism or nepotism is found, then we owe it to each other to root it out. The government should ensure the process is fair; however, only the individual can determine their success. The government needs to stop trying to pick the winners and losers. We are not numbers, and all people have value. We should be judged fairly and rise and fall based on our own merit.

Achievement is neither limited nor determined by one’s race, but by one’s skills, dedication, training, experiences, education, knowledge and character. We live in America, and if you work hard, you can succeed.   

This is not just an issue with the FAA; it affects police and fire departments across the country.

Clearly, lowering the bar is not the answer. President Bush commented that this leads to “the bigotry of low expectations.” We have seen departments at municipal and federal levels employ several schemes ranging from lowering standards on background checks to awarding points for non-job related skills with the only goal to diversify the workforce by engineering the desired result. This often a creates a lower-skilled workforce of whites, blacks and Hispanics.

Public safety is not about second chances. It’s about making the right choices based off imperfect information while operating under stressful and at times dangerous situations.

The public does not care what an Air Traffic Controller looks like, that will have no impact on their performance. They only care that they are competent and that they can make the right decisions when under stress. The public deserves the very best, and when one’s life is on the line, second best may not be good enough.

Public policy cannot be dictated by feelings and emotion. It must be dictated by the need for public safety.

Frank Ricci is an advisory board member for Fire Engineering, a battalion chief and union president in New Haven, Conn. Ricci was the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case Ricci v. DeStefano. Ricci’s opinions are not related to and do not reflect those of his employer of the professional organizations in which is involved.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.