GAO: Contract Towers Work but Need Better Oversight
The General Accountability Office’s final report on the effectiveness of the FAA Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program said that while the program delivers ATC services at a lower cost than FAA-operated facilities, the entire program requires improved oversight.
The GAO made a similar comment about oversight in a 1998 report when the auditing body learned “contract towers were not staffed in accordance with contractor staffing plans, raising concerns that the government was being billed for services that were not actually provided.” The FAA then added a provision in its FCT program, requiring contractors to develop a staffing plan to include the actual number of controllers in use, as well as the precise number of hours those people would work on an annual basis with a 3-percent deviation margin.
The most recent GAO report, which was requested by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, found that no one at FAA has been verifying annual contractor performance, relying instead only on monthly reports. The GAO believes this might indicate the agency is paying for services not delivered, while also missing opportunities to recoup funds from contractors missing performance quotas.