FAA Staffing Issues A Concern

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Although no one seems to dispute the FAA’s need to hire 11,000 new air traffic controllers over the next 10 years to cover the retirement bulge that has already begun, the OIG would like the FAA to figure out exactly where the new recruits should be deployed and just how much this hiring push is costing. The report notes that the original hiring plan, released in 2004, didn’t define those issues and, while the agency is working on a location-by-location assessment of staffing requirements, it’s still ignoring the cost issues. In fairness, the agency was missing some key financial information on the cost projections because, until earlier this year when it imposed a contract on air traffic controllers, it didn’t know what salary and benefit costs for new hires would be. Now that those costs have been established, the OIG wants to see real numbers. While much of the limelight has been on controller issues, the OIG is also reminding the FAA that a shortage of safety inspectors is looming. The report says that 1,008 of the agency’s 3,628 inspectors are eligible to retire now (that’s 28 percent) and by 2010 slightly more than half (1,820) can pull the pin. The agency has asked for money to hire 116 new inspectors in the 2007 budget. “Just as FAA has recognized the need to address an expected surge in controller attrition, it must also ensure it closely monitors retirements and takes steps to hire and train the next generation of safety inspectors,” the report says. “FAA will need to carefully evaluate its inspector staffing levels to ensure it can sustain sufficient oversight in light of the potential attrition within that workforce.”