Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill got a response from acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta after she questioned cost overruns on a contract to train air traffic controllers, but it wasn’t the one she wanted.
“Why bother responding if you’re only going to offer non-answers on how your agency has failed to meet its obligations, while continuing to waste taxpayer dollars,” asked McCaskill, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight. “The FAA’s actions are unacceptable, and I fully intend to hold Administration officials’ feet to the fire when I call them to answer these questions face-to-face.”
In a letter to Huerta last month, McCaskill requested information about an $860 million government contract with Raytheon Technical Services to help train new and current air traffic controllers. According to the first-term lawmaker, the program will run out of money next month, more than one year before the contract is due to end, and she questioned the FAA’s plan to extend the agreement by three years without fully addressing the problems that led to the cost overruns and performance shortfalls in the first place.
In a letter dated July 18, Huerta contended that the Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution contract has contributed to the FAA’s overall success in hiring 7,500 new air traffic controllers, but he acknowledged that the success “came with an unacceptable cost growth and that we did not effectively manage the contract in the past.”
McCaskill accuses Huerta of failing to adequately address the decision-making process and plans to prevent waste in the future, and she is vowing to call FAA officials to the Senate to answer those same questions in meetings with Senate Committee staff. She added that agency officials will also be expected to explain their decisions to reward Raytheon with more than $28 million in profit on the contract which, in addition to running out of money, has failed to achieve its original goals, including reducing costs, reducing training time or developing new and innovative training.
Currently in the midst of her first re-election campaign, McCaskill is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, and she has used her subcommittee to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. She recently introduced the Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act, which she calls the most significant reform of wartime contracting standards in 60 years.