The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report April 13, 2005 titled NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM: Experts’ Views on Improving the U.S. Air Traffic Control Modernization Program in which the GAO indicates that resistance to change is present at all levels of the FAA and that the resistance has seriously hindered the needed modernization of the nation’s air traffic control system. The report was drafted by a panel of experts, inlcuding former high-level FAA officials, economists, academics and industry experts, who were selected by the GAO to review the FAA’s progress at modernizing the ATC system.
The panel indicated that the “resistance is a characteristic of FAA personnel at all levels” and “management, in the experience of some panelists, is more resistant than employees who may fear that technologies will threaten their jobs.” Additionally, the panel noted that the FAA has a shortage of in-house technical expertise which it has had to supplement with outside contractors.
The panel’s general conclusions are that (1) Cultural and Technical Factors Have Impeded ATC Modernization; (2) Budgetary Factors Have Constrained ATC Modernization; and (3) Short-term and Longer Term Changes Could Promote Success. Ironically, these issues and the changes suggested by the panel are really no different than the issues that face many businesses today. These observations are not new, however. Many critics have suggested that government would not have the serious budgetary issues it does if it were operated more like a business.
So far, the FAA has not commented on the report. It will be interesting to hear the FAA’s response, if any. For a more detailed explanation of the panel’s finding, you can read the 46 page report here