More Storm Clouds for FAA-Weather Service Plan
The back-and-forth between the FAA and National Weather Service hit turbulence today, when a government expert suggested any changes in the way the two agencies work together will not fly unless they sort out several outstanding details.
You'll recall that the Weather Service submitted recommendations last month on how to change the FAA's use of government meteorologists at its 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers. The proposed plan would consolidate Weather Service forecasters into just two locations, in College Park, Md., and Kansas City. The FAA has sought changes to their current arrangement since at least 2005, in an effort to cut costs. Unions representing air traffic controllers and forecasters blasted the idea, convinced it will compromise air safety. (For more on the plan read The Post's Capital Weather Gang)
In a report prepared for today's House Science and Technology Committee, the GAO's leading expert on the matter seemed to agree.
The FAA and the NWS "have not defined a common outcome, established joint strategies to achieve the outcome, or agreed upon agency responsibilities," according to David A. Powner, GAO's director of information technology management issues.
"Any changes to the current structure could degrade aviation operations and safety -- and the agencies may not know it," according to his prepared testimony.
Powner notes that FAA has failed to provide the Weather Service with specific needs and a sense of how much money it hopes to save. It's also still unclear if the changes will fit with the government's long-term "NextGen" plans to shift the nation's air traffic control systems from radar to satellites. Finally -- and perhaps most crucially -- both agencies have failed to prove that the changes will not impact air safety.
The plan would save FAA some money, according to GAO. It will initially cost approximately $12.8 million to make the transition, but then cut the FAA's costs for the weather services by about 21 percent.
FAA has until next month to respond to the Weather Service proposal. Their current partnership expires in September and there has been no word yet if, when or how it might be renewed.
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| July 16, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Oversight, Turf War
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