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FAA Rushes to Try and Implement Service-Degrading Engineer Consolidation Plan, Ignoring Congressional Opposition - (11/10/2008)

WASHINGTON – In its latest large-scale move to try and cut costs by reducing critical aviation safety services, the Federal Aviation Administration has begun to implement its “Engineering Services Efficiency Plan (ESEP)” which will move 362 FAA engineers away from where they’re most needed. The move marks the boldest thumbing of the FAA’s nose to widespread Congressional opposition to the plan to date.

               The ESEP, which the agency has acted upon very quietly, without transparency or public statement, attempts to continue the FAA’s agenda of consolidating its employees into fewer offices with the effect of having fewer employees doing more safety-critical work. Last year, the FAA consolidated the Air Traffic Organization’s administrative and technical support services. In 2006, the FAA consolidated financial accounting services at the regional offices. Eventually, NATCA fears this will mean the consolidation of the nine FAA regional offices into three, which would then be unrealistically expected to serve all 50 states with the same level of high performance.              

 “The engineers currently assigned to the regional offices perform a much-needed function. They have been there for many years and they know the facilities well that they’re responsible for each day,” said Michael MacDonald, who represents FAA engineers as a NATCA regional vice president. “They understand the nuances of constructability for their specific region. They have longstanding relationships with the people they serve, both internal to the FAA and external in the local communities. They understand what it takes to design and implement critical infrastructure in a live operational environment.”               

NATCA’s concerns about the consolidation are highlighted by these points:   -- The FAA has already lost 17 percent of the engineering workforce between 2006 and 2007 -- 83 percent of the engineers in Kansas City have been identified as “affected,” meaning they will be moving to Fort Worth, Texas. -- Most at risk will be the delivery of services (establishment and modernization of National Airspace System facilities) -- This could impact airport improvement (AIP) projects as there will not be adequate FAA engineering oversight on these construction jobs. -- Relocating 362 engineers in this down economy does not make sense, especially since a significant number will leave their FAA job so they don't have to move. This is of course what the FAA wants; cull the veteran, higher paying experienced engineers and replace them in the Service centers in Atlanta, Fort Worth and Seattle, with lower paid, less experienced engineers.               

Many in Congress share NATCA’s concerns. In January, 35 members of Congress sent a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell that stated the consolidation of engineering services “would compromise the safety of air travel in the regions of the United States served by these offices. Safe and efficient air travel requires engineering and support services that are accessible and convenient for the airports and air travelers that rely on them.”  

             The members of Congress told Sturgell, “the FAA should not move forward with plans to consolidate the regional offices without Congressional consultation and oversight. Therefore, we recommend that you suspend all plans to consolidate the FAA’s engineering services and consult with Members of Congress regarding the future of the FAA’s regional offices and the services performed by these offices.”               

To read the letter in its entirety, please go here:

 http://www.natca.org/assets/Documents/mediacenter/Oct2008SturgellLetter.pdf    


 


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