Like the rest of the government, the FAA is facing congressionally mandated budget cuts through 2022. While it has been spared the fiscal 2013 cuts thanks to lawmakers’ decision to allow it to reallocate airport grant funds, not all budget cuts have gone away.
The FAA’s Aviation Safety division staff numbered 7,148 on April 30, down nearly 300 positions from the start of fiscal 2013 on Oct. 1. The reductions have come through attrition; a hiring freeze aimed at keeping costs down has kept desks empty.
The staff reduction’s effects are measurable. FAA officials acknowledge delays in operator and aircraft certification services and increases in time required to process pilot medical certificates and aircraft registration services.
As the mandatory budget cuts took hold and the hiring freeze began shrinking payroll, senior FAA officials pointed to programs such as risk-based surveillance as ways it would keep up with certificate holders. The OIG’s audit suggests the challenge, at least in the maintenance hangar, is as large as a mega-transport.