What We Looked At
Extreme weather events, including those potentially caused by effects of climate change, are a source of major disruptions to the National Airspace System (NAS). In November 2021, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) authorizing $25 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fund programs to address aging aviation infrastructure. Specifically, it funded the Airport Infrastructure Grant program, Airport Terminal Program, and the Facilities and Equipment program. Also, in November 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14052, which directed agencies tasked with implementing IIJA to take steps, such as prioritizing as appropriate and to the extent consistent with law, building resilient infrastructure projects that help combat climate change. As part of our IIJA funding oversight and given the policy emphasis on climate change and resiliency, we initiated this audit. Our objective was to assess FAA’s plans for prioritizing resiliency into IIJA aviation programs.
What We Found
FAA has taken steps to address resiliency in discretionary IIJA aviation programs. For example, FAA incorporates resiliency and climate change in its project selection criteria for these programs. However, FAA has not established a mechanism for collecting and reporting data on the extent to which IIJA-funded projects address FAA’s and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) strategic goals on climate and sustainability. Also, FAA does not have a framework to prioritize projects that address climate change in its standards. As a result, FAA and airports are not required to consider climate change impacts when proposing infrastructure projects. However, in September 2021, FAA entered into an interagency agreement with DOT’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe) for a 5-year study to identify the climate change risk to airport systems. Yet, the results of this study, which is currently scheduled to conclude in 2026, will not be available for many projects that receive funding before the study’s end.
We made two recommendations to improve FAA’s prioritization of resiliency and climate change in IIJA aviation programs.