While FAA Took Steps Intended To Improve Its Controller Hiring Process, the Agency Did Not Effectively Implement Its New Policies
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employs approximately 14,000 air traffic controllers and plans to hire more than 3,400 additional controllers over the next 2 years to offset estimated retirements. The Agency faces the challenge of selecting these new controllers and assigning them to air traffic facilities where they will have the best opportunity for success. In 2014, FAA began making changes to its controller hiring process. Congress and other stakeholders expressed concerns about the transparency and effectiveness of FAA’s revised processes. The Chairmen of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Subcommittee on Aviation requested we review FAA’s air traffic control hiring programs and practices. Ranking Member Nelson of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation also expressed concerns about changes to the controller hiring process and requested that we look into the issue.
We found that FAA’s decision to revise its controller hiring process was based on internal and external reviews of its policies, which identified equal opportunity issues and other opportunities to improve the process. While the new process incorporates recommended changes from external reviews, FAA did not have an effective roll-out or communication strategy for implementing the new hiring process. In addition, FAA has experienced delays in hiring controllers through the new process that limited its ability to meet its hiring goals. We made two recommendations to increase effectiveness of FAA’s air traffic controller hiring process. FAA concurred with both recommendations, and we consider them resolved but open pending completion of planned actions. After the conclusion of our audit work, Congress passed and the President signed into law the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016, which includes changes to the hiring process for air traffic control specialists.