Federal Manager's Daily Report

It is difficult to assess whether special personnel authorities put in place for the Federal Aviation Administration in a 1995 law have addressed the issues that caused Congress and the then-Clinton administration to make those changes, a study has said.

The study by the National Academy of Public Administration was the latest in a series of assessments of the special personnel authorities put in place at the FAA in 1995, designed to help the agency better meet fast-changing technology and operational demands unique to that agency. Features include greater flexibility in hiring, training, pay and assigning employees to duty stations than under federal personnel law generally.

The review said that the FAA “has taken important steps in the past few years to address long-standing impediments to the efficient and effective staffing of air traffic control facilities, though it will take additional time to fully assess progress.” And while the FAA has taken some advantage of flexibility in compensation, the HR office has shown reluctance to use that authority more widely “due to concern over its inability to oversee and enforce conformance with merit system principles.”

Further, the authorities were carried out in a “piecemeal” fashion, and a lack of data “precluded a reliable assessment of the total cost of FAA’s personnel management system or its cost-effectiveness.”

The report recommended that the FAA: “(1) strengthen the working relationships between the human resources management office and customer organizations, (2) improve coordination of classification and management of human resources-related positions across the agency, (3) strengthen agency-wide workforce planning processes, and (4) develop a balanced, fiscally responsible approach to labor contract negotiations.”