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Date

OST Complied With Federal Regulations, Policies, and Procedures Regarding Executive Travel on DOT Aircraft, but FAA Needs To Enhance Controls for Updating Flight Hour Rates

Requested By
Requested by Senator Marco Rubio; the Chairmen of the House T&I Committee and its Aviation Subcommittee; the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee; and the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee
Project ID
AV2024012
File Attachment
What We Looked At
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has a fleet of 38 aircraft that are operated and maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Flight Program Operations within the Air Traffic Organization. FAA uses these aircraft for a variety of missions, including critical event response and transportation for DOT executives, such as the Secretary of Transportation, and other Government agency officials. The Office of Management and Budget’s guidance to Executive Department heads allows Federal officials to travel on Government aircraft but with restrictions. Several Members of Congress requested we review DOT executives’ use of Government aircraft. Our objective was to determine whether the Office of the Secretary (OST) complied with Federal regulations, policies, and procedures regarding executive travel on DOT aircraft.
 
What We Found
OST complied with Federal regulations, policies, and procedures for the Secretaries’ travel on DOT aircraft from January 2017 to June 2023. Records for each of the 15 trips contained the required authorizations, justifications, and approvals for use of the DOT aircraft, including documentation such as trip memos and cost comparisons, as appropriate. However, in evaluating OST’s cost comparisons, we determined that FAA did not consistently update the DOT aircraft flight hour cost rates OST uses to determine the cost effectiveness of Secretarial transportation. As a result, FAA’s flight hour rates may not have reflected the most current operating costs. We also identified three instances in which FAA did not use the correct flight hour rate for its cost estimates. While the incorrect cost estimates did not negatively impact cost effectiveness in these instances, this control weakness could result in incorrect cost comparisons.
 
Our Recommendations
DOT concurred with our two recommendations to improve FAA’s aircraft rate update process and provided documentation of FAA’s actions taken in response. We consider both recommendations resolved but open pending OIG review of FAA’s documentation.

Recommendations

Closed on
No. 1 to FAA
Complete the ongoing effort to update the DOT aircraft flight hour use rates and the associated FAA policy and guidance, including documenting the methodology and process to perform annual rate recalculations for each aircraft type in accordance with OMB Circular No. A-126, as well as a threshold to apply rate updates.
Closed on
No. 2 to FAA
Establish a control in the Agency’s flight scheduling process to make sure FAA personnel use the correct aircraft flight hour rates when generating travel quotes.