February 10, 2021
Gaps in FAA's Oversight of the AIP State Block Grant Program Contribute to Adherence Issues and Increase Risks
What We Looked At
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) provides grants to public and private entities to enhance safety and security, maintain infrastructure, increase capacity, and mitigate airport noise. According to FAA, between 2019 and 2023, U.S. airports will need approximately $35.1 billion for these types of projects. Under the State Block Grant Program (SBGP), FAA provides AIP funds directly to Block Grant States (BGS), which then take on certain responsibilities for administering the AIP. Given the need to ensure that Federal funds are spent appropriately, as well as Congress’ recent expansion of the SBGP, we initiated this audit with the following objectives: to assess FAA’s oversight of (1) State project selection and (2) grantee and subgrantee compliance with Federal laws and regulations on the use of funds.
What We Found
FAA performs few oversight activities during the project selection process. For example, while entitlement funds represent the majority of SBGP awards, FAA policy directs Agency officials to focus on projects seeking discretionary funds. We estimate that, as a result, FAA did not evaluate projects awarded $87.9 million in Federal funds. FAA did not provide BGS with consolidated guidance for almost 3 decades; consequently, BGS still do not fully understand their responsibilities. FAA also has never performed an assessment to ensure compliance with Federal requirements or required BGS to document their decisions. Thus, FAA may be funding airport projects that do not meet national priorities. Furthermore, FAA’s oversight does not prevent compliance gaps or resolve persistent programmatic issues. Finally, the Agency’s own reviews of the program have been inconsistent and do not assign responsibility for corrective actions or track grantee compliance. As a result, staff are unsure where to direct their oversight.
We made 13 recommendations to improve FAA’s oversight of SBGP project selection and grantee compliance with Federal financial laws and regulations. The Agency concurred with 11 of our recommendations and partially concurred with 2, proposing alternative actions. We consider all 13 recommendations to be resolved but open pending completion of planned actions.