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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 Infrastru
Project ID: 
AV2012152

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.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

Closed on 01.06.2014
No. 1 to FAA

Perform analysis to determine the root causes of incidents report through ATSAP.

Closed on 12.02.2014
No. 2 to FAA

Expedite the development of a process to provide facility access to ATSAP data.

Closed on 01.17.2013
No. 3 to FAA

Provide recurring training to front line management regarding their rights and responsibilities under ATSAP.

Closed on 04.04.2013
No. 4 to FAA

Create a system to track best practices when assigning skill enhancement training, and communicate these best practices to facility management.

Closed on 08.17.2016
No. 5 to FAA

Develop a process permitting ERCs to validate all reports submitted to ATSAP.

Closed on 01.17.2013
No. 6 to FAA

Enact a written policy that forbids ERC members from discussing or voting on reports that they have submitted and require ERC members to attest that they are not personally involved in any reports that will be discussed before every ERC meeting.

Closed on 01.23.2013
No. 7 to FAA

Develop an automated flag" to easily identify repeat ATSAP report submitters."

Closed on 02.04.2013
No. 8 to FAA

Provide clear guidance to ERC's on what constitutes knowingly introducing an unacceptable level of risk.""

Closed on 08.17.2016
No. 9 to FAA

Develop a process permitting ERCs to validate all reports submitted to ATSAP.

No. 10 to FAA

Revise ATSAP guidance to exclude accidents from the program.