FAA falls down on workforce planning

The Federal Aviation Administration does not have sufficient plans to hire, train and certify acquisition staff, according to agency auditors.

A Transportation Department inspector general report published last week found FAA's acquisition workforce does not have the skills or expertise to manage the agency's multibillion-dollar contracting budget. FAA's workforce plan does not address gaps in hiring and developing staff, nor does the agency follow established targets for balancing acquisition employees across programs, according to the audit.

The agency's transition to NextGen, which replaces the current aviation system with more advanced technology, has increased FAA's acquisition workload in recent years and is expected to cause a jump in contract funding in fiscal 2012, the IG found. In addition, retirement eligibility is at 20 percent and will hit 40 percent by 2015. The acquisition workforce will require new skills and additional resources to address this gap, according to the report.

FAA has exceeded hiring targets for certain acquisition positions but has fallen behind in others, the report found. For example, the agency has brought on double the number of contracting officers outlined in its workforce plan, but less than 40 percent of support engineers. The audit also found the agency lacks sufficient data on its hiring practices, has vague targets for training employees and does not offer internal certification programs for half its acquisition disciplines. More than half of the 63 acquisition employees surveyed for the report had not read the latest workforce plan.

According to the IG, the agency should clarify which employees are considered part of the acquisition staff, determine the best mix of contractors and government workers, review existing certification programs, and adopt better track hiring, training and certification practices.

In comments submitted on the report, FAA agreed with most of the IG's recommendations, but expressed concern that the audit didn't take recent progress into account. Officials also said the agency lacks the resources to address some of the recommendations.

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