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Underlying Data Quality Issues Hinder the Staffing and Placement of FAA’s Maintenance Technicians

Requested by the House Committee on Appropriations
Project ID: 
AV2018057
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Tech Ops Staffing Model, the model lacks several key factors and includes incomplete, inaccurate, and in some instances outdated workload, time reporting, and equipment inventory data.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.
 
Our Recommendations
FAA concurred with all six of our recommendations to help improve its policy and procedures concerning the staffing and placement of maintenance technicians.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

No. 1 to FAA

Determine the impact of new hire training and certification time and fatigue mitigation requirements on technician staffing and incorporate into the maintenance technician staffing process.

No. 2 to FAA

Determine the impact of equipment age on workload and maintenance technician staffing needs and incorporate this factor into the staffing model, if found to be statistically significant.

No. 3 to FAA

Review and update the Facility, Service, and Equipment Profile policy to require user training and recurring data-validation reviews at the Support Center and national levels at defined intervals prior to running the staffing model.

No. 4 to FAA

Develop and implement a process to reduce and standardize codes in the Labor Distribution Reporting (LDR) system to improve accounting for direct maintenance workload.

No. 5 to FAA

Determine if the newly standardized LDR data are reliable for direct maintenance workloads in the Technical Operations Staffing Model, and if so, develop and implement an action plan with milestones to replace the workload assessments with LDR data.

No. 6 to FAA

Revise the current standard operating procedure, Tier 1/2/3 Staffing Allocations and Tier 1 Watch Coverage Requirements to: a. Define the job series and clarify whether system specialists and System Support Center coordinators are included in the Tier 1, 2, and 3 staffing targets;and b. Require annual review, validation, and updating of staffing allocation targets.