June 27, 2018
Requested by the House Committee on Appropriations
Underlying Data Quality Issues Hinder the Staffing and Placement of FAA’s Maintenance Technicians
What We Looked At
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Technical Operations (Tech Ops) employs approximately 6,000 maintenance technicians who play a vital role in repairing, replacing, and certifying air traffic equipment. This workforce is the second largest mission-critical workforce in FAA after air traffic controllers. Therefore, a properly sized technician workforce is important to the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System. In its 2017 Report, the House Committee on Appropriations directed us to assess FAA’s plans for hiring and placing maintenance technicians. Accordingly, our objectives were to evaluate FAA’s (1) methodology for determining maintenance technician staffing levels and (2) process for placing maintenance technicians.
What We Found
FAA does not have an effective method for accurately determining maintenance technician staffing levels. Although FAA has developed a Tech Ops Staffing Model, the model lacks several key factors and includes incomplete, inaccurate, and in some instances outdated workload, time reporting, and equipment inventory data. Until these issues are resolved, the model cannot be used to project staffing needs, and true staffing requirements remain unknown. In addition, although FAA has established a process for placing maintenance technicians, it does not ensure technicians are placed when and where they are most needed. In 2014, FAA instituted a standard operating procedure to establish staffing targets for maintenance technicians at facilities. However, the targets have not been clearly defined or validated for accuracy. In addition, FAA developed a priority tool to improve hiring and placement prioritization. However, the tool does not yet account for new technician training and certification time (approximately 2 to 3 years), making it difficult for the Agency to correctly place new technicians on an annual basis.
FAA concurred with all six of our recommendations to help improve its policy and procedures concerning the staffing and placement of maintenance technicians.