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Same Week as Botched Plane Landing, McCaskill Leads Hearing on Air Traffic Controller Training Contract

Senator examines mismanagement and cost overruns in FAA training program

January 15, 2014

WASHINGTON - Days after an airplane landed at the wrong airport in southwest Missouri, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill led an oversight hearing to examine mismanagement and program failures in an $859 million contract to train air traffic controllers.

The hearing focused on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) management of the Air Traffic Controller Optimum Training Solution (ATCOTS) program and contract, which McCaskill has been investigating since 2011. The ATCOTS program provides training for air traffic controllers across the country, and is critical to maintaining air traffic safety for fliers nationwide.

"Congress and the American public have entrusted the FAA with taxpayer dollars and trust them to maintain the safety of our airspace," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. "Just this weekend, in my state, a plane mistakenly landed at the wrong airport in Missouri, coming dangerously close to the end of a runway that was shorter than required for a 737. While there's no evidence of a connection between what we're exploring here today and what happened in Missouri, it is a timely reminder of the need to ensure that the resources we spend on air traffic safety are spent effectively."

The hearing included testimony from Mary Kay Langan-Feirson, the Assistant Inspector General at the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General; Patricia McNall, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Finance and Management at the FAA; and Lynn A. Dugle, a President at Raytheon Company.

McCaskill asked the witnesses critical questions about the Inspector General's findings of poor contract management, and raised concerns about whether the FAA even knows the costs required to effectively train air traffic controllers.

"Contracting is about knowing what you need, how much it'll cost, and how much you're willing and able to pay," McCaskill said. "I hope you understand why up to this point I haven't even been clear on whether you have an understanding of what this will cost the taxpayer."

In September 2010, the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General published a report that found significant problems associated with the contract for the ATCOTS program, including significant cost overruns, poor procurement practices, and a lack of oversight. In 2011, McCaskill requested that the Inspector General conduct a follow-up review of the ATCOTS program to determine whether FAA had made any improvements in management of the contract. The latest Inspector General report found that little improvement has been made and that the FAA has failed to achieve critical goals.

The FAA is now considering plans to recompete the ATCOTS contract in the fall of 2014 without having adequately addressed the deficiencies in management and oversight which led directly to the problems with the original contract.

McCaskill told the FAA that if it moves forward with recompeting the contract, "I'm going to be on it like a rabid dog," to ensure that it fixes the problems with management and oversight.

Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill's fight for stronger accountability in Washington.

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