Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hiding in Plain Sight

If you took the time to read the Louisville Courier-Journal article from an earlier post you would have read this:

"The FAA did not respond to an Oct. 4 request, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, for the number of controllers working at each facility. The agency is working on a new staffing standard for each site but doesn't expect to complete it until spring.
Gannett News Service and The Courier-Journal relied upon facility-by-facility statistics gathered by the union and compared them with the "authorized numbers," which the union and FAA negotiated in 1998 and adjusted through 2003."

Kind of interesting don’t you think ? Knowing how many employees you have is kind of basic. And the Freedom of Information Act is a law. I don’t know much about it but I know that much.

I just learned of some new information. This document (a Windows .doc file) from the FAA.

Contained in the document is this little tidbit.

"Air Traffic Controller Staffing Plan: We are currently 113 controllers below where we should be at the end of November."

So, the FAA knows how many controllers it has (or more appropriately, doesn’t have) but they didn’t answer a FOI request for the information. What is going on ?

The answer (as usual) is right in front of you if you know what you’re looking for. In that I did work for the FAA, I have the advantage of having seen this tactic time and time again.

"The agency is working on a new staffing standard for each site but doesn't expect to complete it until spring."

The trick is to change -- I’m sorry, improve your “standards” -- the way things are measured -- every few years so that the previous data is no longer “relevant.”

"While the FAA argues those numbers are no longer relevant,...."

That way, you can’t track trends over long periods of time. Or if you change the way you grade yourself, you can change your grade.

I predict the controller staffing shortage will look much better when the FAA completes it’s new staffing standard this spring.

Don Brown
December 27, 2006

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