FAA Budget Finds Room To Boost Safety Staff

A growing civil aviation industry means FAA cannot afford to hold the line on safety and certification staff

The FAA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request reflects the agency’s challenging reality of trying to do more with less. Its overall request of $15.83 billion is a slight decrease from what it ended up with for 2015, but boosts funding for some high-profile programs, including NextGen and maintenance of existing air traffic control facilities. 

Despite efforts to streamline certification and safety surveillance efforts with programs such as designees and risk-based safety oversight, the Office of Aviation Safety (AVS) is still in line for more resources. The agency’s official request would boost AVS programmatic funding—money not tied to routine personnel expenses such as pay raises and benefits—by $21.3 million over this year’s pot. The AVS budget request, which totals $1.26 billion or 3.3% above 2015, also asks for 85 new full-time-equivalent (FTE) staffers, mostly safety inspectors and engineers for both surveillance and certification.

“AVS forecasts the need for additional safety personnel to meet projected demands for industry oversight and certification services, while continuing to expand delegation responsibilities to designees,” the agency explained in its budget request. “FAA/AVS forecasts out-year growth in the demand for the number of type certification design approvals required by applicants, production certificates provided to manufacturers and supplier control audits conducted at manufacturers.”

Some of these demands are evolutionary, such as FAA adopting the widespread acceptance of data-driven risk management. The agency is lobbying hard to expand participants in voluntary data-aggregation programs such as the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing Program. But making prudent use of that data requires more FAA resources—a fact not lost on industry, as it ponders whether to invest its own resources.

Others, such as staffing up to add a new class of aircraft—unmanned aerial systems (UAS)—to the national airspace system, are more revolutionary. 

“The AVS request also includes funding to focus on oversight and training for designee supervisionand the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System,” the FAA explains. “This staffing request is aligned with the forecasted staffing requirements included in the AVS Workforce Plan.”

The budget request would push AVS’s total FTE staff to 7,246, adding 54 to surveillance and oversight, 29 to certification and UAS integration and two to its SMS program.

FAA’s overall request includes funds for 44,213 total “directly funded” FTEs—120 more than its enacted 2015 budget. 


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