Ex-DOT Secretary Gets ‘Incomplete’ For Aviation Panel

 - August 1, 2013, 10:00 AM
Secretary LaHood made good on his promise to keep the FAAC recommendations off a dusty shelf, at least for the time being.

When former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced formation of the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC) in 2010, he promised that efforts of the 19-member group would not languish on a shelf and be forgotten like the work of several other aviation panels over the past two decades. So how’d he do?

In April 2011, the FAAC released a report outlining 23 recommendations in five areas: environment, financing, competitiveness and viability, labor and workforce and safety. Earlier this year, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the status of the Department of Transportation’s efforts to implement the FAAC recommendations.

The GAO examined 10 of the committee’s 23 recommendations to determine the DOT’s progress in addressing the selected recommendations, and any planned future actions; the FAAC members’ perspectives on the extent to which the DOT’s actions address those recommendations; and the challenges, if any, that the DOT faces in addressing the recommendations.

The selected recommendations covered each of the five areas and allowed the GAO to leverage ongoing or recent GAO work. “The GAO did not analyze the validity of the FAAC’s recommendations, and our work does not take a position on, or represent an endorsement of, the recommendations,” the agency said.

FAAC members acknowledged DOT and FAA efforts to address the 10 recommendations selected for our work,” the GAO added. “However, a majority of the FAAC subcommittee members believe more work remains to fully address nine of the 10 recommendations.”

Similar to DOT and FAA officials, FAAC members stated that some recommendations may not be fully addressed due to the recommendations’ being linked to ongoing or long-term efforts. For example, FAAC members noted that DOT and FAA efforts to address the sustainable alternative fuels recommendation require collaborating across many agencies, such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, and a continued long-term federal focus.

In another example, five of the six FAAC finance subcommittee members stated that the recommendation to fund accelerated NextGen equipage of aircraft was not addressed, and two suggested that the department take additional steps to collaborate with industry to design an incentive program and develop a stronger business case for airlines to invest in equipping early.

So, former Secretary LaHood made good on his promise to keep the FAAC recommendations off a dusty shelf, at least for the time being. But it is not clear what will happen next. We would give Mr. LaHood’s effort an “incomplete.”