FAA system helps delay rulemaking

Aviation Rulemaking: Further Reform is Needed to Address LongstandingProblems

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A new Federal Aviation Administration automated system that tracks only the most significant rules and is limited to one office is contributing to the FAA's slow rulemaking process, the General Accounting Office has found.

In a report issued last week, GAO said the new system, which combines existing project tracking and document management systems, is being used to track only the FAA's 24 A-list rules and hasn't been implemented much beyond the FAA Office of Rulemaking.

"The small number of rules that it consistently tracks and a lack of agencywide implementation has made the system less useful than it could potentially be," GAO found.

With the project-tracking portion of the system focusing only on 24 rules, the system is missing data for many of the remaining major rulemaking projects, according to GAO. Rulemaking officials told GAO that limited resources have prevented them from keeping track of nonpriority rules. But if a rulemaking project joins the A-list rules, historic data that could be useful for assessing it would be missing, GAO said.

"Without complete, accurate and consistent data on all [of the] FAA's rulemaking projects, FAA managers will not be able to use the information system to its fullest capacity—to measure the time elapsed between specific steps in the process to identify where and to what extend delays occur over time," GAO found.

The document management portion of the system has not been fully implemented across all FAA offices involved in rulemaking, GAO said, and although all rulemaking teams had been trained on the system, only 26 percent said they'd been fully trained when enhancements were made.

The FAA's technology plan calls for an "automation champion" to lead implementation in other rulemaking offices, but the agency hasn't yet designated one, GAO said.

The FAA launched a reform effort in 1998 to address continued problems that delay rulemaking and to respond to congressional mandates passed in 1996.

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