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House Holds Roundtable on FAA Controller Staffing, Hiring

With one third of the air traffic controller workforce eligible to retire, staffing down 10 percent since 2011, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) missing hiring goals in each of the past five years, Congress is taking steps to understand the issues and chart a path forward.

Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a policy roundtable on FAA controller staffing, including representatives from the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), the inspector general’s office, and the president of the air traffic controllers union.

Paul Rinaldi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), asserted that the “FAA’s bureaucratic structure is failing us” and that if the current hiring and staffing “situation continues unaddressed, we will be hard-pressed to maintain current capacity, let alone expand and modernize the system.”  

The roundtable on the FAA controller staffing and hiring issues comes amidst a backdrop of a needed FAA reauthorization and a proposal floated this summer by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to pull the air traffic control system out of the FAA and into an independent entity.

A short-term FAA authorization passed earlier this year expires on March 31, 2016.

A report released on the day of the roundtable by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the ability of the FAA to “perform its mission has been affected by budget uncertainty resulting from the 2013 government shutdown, sequestration, 2011 authorization lapse, continuing resolutions, and multiple short-term reauthorizations.”

Amidst the discussion on the broader future of the organization, recent reforms to the agency’s hiring program have also been the topic of conversation.

NATCA offered three recommendations to addressing the staffing shortage:

  • FAA should post an open and continuous vacancy announcement for experienced air traffic controllers;
  • FAA needs a streamlined hiring process, specifically to ease the bottlenecks and bureaucratic delays in HR, security, and medical;
  • FAA needs a less bureaucratic, and more expeditious transfer policy for current FAA controllers — one that takes into account the needs of the entire national air system as a whole, not 315 policies, one for each individual facility. This transfer policy would also encourage experienced controllers at lower level facilities to voluntarily move up, at their own expense, to busier, more complex facilities.

The FAA Managers Association (FAAMA) has been raising concerns with FAA leadership and congressional leaders about recent revisions to the FAA’s hiring policies and practices, which have not produced the promised pool of high quality controller candidates, according to FAAMA Executive Director Louis Dupart.  

Dupart told FEDmanager students entering the FAA Academy are failing at significantly higher rates than before the new hiring program was put into place by the FAA’s Office of Human Resources in 2014. 

Dupart said FAAMA agrees with NATCA’s call for a streamlined hiring process, but one that must include personal face-to-face interviews of controller candidates as part of the hiring of air traffic controllers. Further, FAAMA supports Administrator Huerta’s goal to improve the diversity of the controller workforce and believes that the FAA must work harder to identify a pool of qualified, diverse candidates who possess the necessary skills to succeed at the Academy and beyond. 

FAAAMA suggested that if new recruits are not prepared for the rigors of the Air Traffic Academy, then the FAA should set up programs that will give them the necessary skills and training before they arrive at the Academy through a program similar to the Collegiate Training Initiative.

 

 

Posted in General News

Tags: FAA

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