Audit Reports

July 19, 2012

Long Term Success of ATSAP Will Require Improvements In Oversight, Accountability, and Transparency

Requested by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and its Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security as well as the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: AV-2012-152


On July 19, 2012, we issued a report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP)—a voluntary non-punitive reporting program for air traffic controllers to report safety concerns, such as operational errors and events that present hazards to aviation.   

We found that, although FAA completed ATSAP implementation at all air traffic control facilities in 2010, the Agency will need to make significant improvements before ATSAP will be able to effectively identify and address the root causes of safety risks.  For example, due to ATSAP provisions designed to protect controller confidentiality, much of the ATSAP data that FAA collects are not validated, raising questions about the effectiveness of these data for analyzing safety trends.  We also found that FAA’s oversight of ATSAP lacks effective program management controls.  For example, FAA does not have a formal process to review the effectiveness of decisions made by the program’s review committees to ensure that report acceptance criteria are rigorously followed and that conduct issues are dealt with appropriately.  Failure to address potential deficiencies in transparency and accountability may lead to the perception that ATSAP is an amnesty program in which reports are automatically accepted, regardless of whether they qualify under the program’s guidelines.

We made 10 recommendations to improve FAA’s implementation of ATSAP and to strengthen internal controls, use of data, and performance management within the program. FAA fully concurred with five recommendations, partially concurred with three, and did not concur with two.  We are requesting that the Agency reconsider its responses for these two recommendations, particularly regarding the validation of all data accepted through ATSAP.