Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Will FAA Help Restore Trust in Government?

“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. Chuck Burton

There may be opportunity in Thursday’s long-awaited decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to relax some rules against airline passenger use of electronic devices during takeoffs and landings.

“We believe today’s decision honors both our commitment to safety and consumers' increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future.”

The decision appears thoroughly researched and cautious -- talking or texting on cellphones is still prohibited, by order of the Federal Communications Commission. The original ban on such devices as Kindles, Gameboys and iPads except when the plane is airborne has long been criticized as government foolishness by techies who believe they understand the technology’s risks to pilot-to-tower communications.

But Government Executive raised a larger question with three experts on government effectiveness as to whether the FAA’s sop to consumers might win back some of the trust in government that, polls show, has been lost in recent years.

“It's all about the flying public,” said Paul C. Light, professor of public service at New York University. “Most fliers thought the rule was stupid to begin with. The elimination of stupid does not mean smart.”

But the decision can also be viewed as an example of “government’s effort to be nimble and responsive to technology and changing times," said Lara Shane, vice president for research and communications at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

“Anytime government can do something that has a benefit to the citizen it will pay dividends in terms of goodwill,” she said. “We have one of the safest air travel systems in the world, and that is because of FAA. Hopefully, American passengers are both grateful for the safety record and for how hard FAA employees work to keep us safe. “

The development cuts both ways, said Donald Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. “The FAA tends to be on the happier side of the federal government’s street -- it runs air-traffic control and cracks down on airlines that keep passengers stuck on runways. So it’s one more chance to put some positive points on the board.”

On the other hand, Kettl added, “Many airlines are now advertising that they are taking quick steps to make their fliers happier, and new WiFi systems are being rolled out. So it’s a good bet that much of the positive glow will go to the airlines instead of the FAA.”

The challenge is that there is “more traction in cracking down on bad things than on preventing bad things from happening,” he said. “The FAA is likely to score more points by preventing passengers from getting stuck for hours on the tarmac than allowing fliers to do what many of them thought they should have been able to do ages ago."

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.