Facing a looming fiscal crisis, US Federal Aviation Administration leaders are hoping a yearly review showing employees reached 24 out of 30 performance targets will start a process of restoring faith in the agency's management culture.

The FAA budget is under heavy pressure. A trust fund accounting for 85% of the agency's annual income is being depleted by shifts in the air travel industry. The US government's general fund, meanwhile, is being squeezed by rising deficits and new spending priorities.

FAA chief operations officer Russ Chew says the agency's five-year budget forecast shows a 10.6% cash shortfall, even assuming a spending cut of roughly 10% is achieved.

The FAA is seeking to avoid cutting services by asking the Bush administration and Congress to increase the agency's contributions from the general fund. Its case may depend on how well it can improve the credibility of its leadership, so it can be entrusted to manage a greater share of the taxpayers' money, says Chew.

Last year the agency established a five-year strategic "flight plan" to guide management decisions, with specific targets set for each year. Initial data flowing from the agency's performance tracking system is helping to bolster the case for added funds, says Chew.

"I'm not getting the comment 'I don't believe you' any more," he told the Regional Airline Association's annual meeting on 10 November. But Chew also acknowledges the performance reviews show the agency is intent on being transparent, not that the management problems have gone away.

"I don't have an agency that can execute efficiently right now," he adds.

Although the FAA met almost all of its safety performance goals, metrics associated with managing increases in air traffic capacity in fiscal 2004 fell short on four of eight goals.

Next year, the agency is tweaking the measurement system to factor out air traffic disruptions caused by severe weather.



Source: Flight International