1

Background and Overview

INTRODUCTION

The National Airspace System (NAS) is the integrated network of components necessary to manage the United States airspace effectively and safely: air navigation facilities, equipment, services, airports or landing areas, aeronautical charts, information technology, rules, regulations, procedures, technical information, manpower, and material. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) owns and operates the air traffic control systems in the NAS. Some of these system components (e.g., navigational aids and radar facilities) are also used by the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security in their missions. The NAS continues to evolve as the characteristics of aircraft (e.g., speed and altitude capabilities); their communication and navigation equipment; and the ground equipment used for communication, tracking, and guidance evolve and as the usage of the airspace continues to increase, including the future addition of drone traffic.

The maintenance of the NAS is the responsibility of the Airway Transportation Systems Specialists (ATSS) (job series 2101) who work for the Technical Operations branch of the FAA Air Traffic Organization. The organization chart in Figure 1-1, from FAA Notice 1100.332, presents the management hierarchy for Technical Operations within the Air Traffic Organization and its lines of reporting (FAA, 2012a).

Throughout the history of the FAA, the certification and oversight of the NAS has been considered to be inherently governmental (FAA, 2011a; Office of Management and Budget, 2003). Almost 50 years ago, the Office of Management and Budget published Circular A-76, Performance of Commercial Activities, which defines “inherently governmental activity” as “any activity that is so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by government personnel” (Office of Management and Budget, 2003).

On December 7, 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13180, Air Traffic Performance Based Organization, to establish a more businesslike, customer service focused FAA. Executive Order 13180 specifically states that air traffic services are inherently governmental (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000). However, on June 4, 2002, President Bush issued Executive Order 13264, which amended



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1 Background and Overview INTRODUCTION The National Airspace System (NAS) is the integrated network of components necessary to manage the United States airspace effectively and safely: air navigation facilities, equipment, services, airports or landing areas, aeronautical charts, information technology, rules, regulations, procedures, technical information, manpower, and material. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) owns and operates the air traffic control systems in the NAS. Some of these system components (e.g., navigational aids and radar facilities) are also used by the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security in their missions. The NAS continues to evolve as the characteristics of aircraft (e.g., speed and altitude capabilities); their communication and navigation equipment; and the ground equipment used for communication, tracking, and guidance evolve and as the usage of the airspace continues to increase, including the future addition of drone traffic. The maintenance of the NAS is the responsibility of the Airway Transportation Systems Specialists (ATSS) (job series 2101) who work for the Technical Operations branch of the FAA Air Traffic Orga- nization. The organization chart in Figure 1-1, from FAA Notice 1100.332, presents the management hierarchy for Technical Operations within the Air Traffic Organization and its lines of reporting (FAA, 2012a). Throughout the history of the FAA, the certification and oversight of the NAS has been considered to be inherently governmental (FAA, 2011a; Office of Management and Budget, 2003). Almost 50 years ago, the Office of Management and Budget published Circular A-76, Performance of Commercial Activities, which defines “inherently governmental activity” as “any activity that is so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by government personnel” (Office of Management and Budget, 2003). On December 7, 2000, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13180, Air Traffic Performance Based Organization, to establish a more businesslike, customer service focused FAA. Executive Order 13180 specifically states that air traffic services are inherently governmental (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000). However, on June 4, 2002, President Bush issued Executive Order 13264, which amended 11

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12 ASSESSMENT OF STAFFING NEEDS OF SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS IN AVIATION Vice President Technical Operations AJW-0 Director of Director of Air Traffic Director of Flight Director of National Director of Technical Director of Technical Director of Technical Operations Support Control Facilities Inspections Services Enterprise Operations Operations - ESA Operations - CSA Operations - WSA AJW-1 AJW-2 AJW-3 AJW-B AJW-E AJW-C AJW-W Business Network Engineering Engineering Engineering Management Power Services Business Services Management Services Group - Services Group - Services Group - Group Group Group Group ESA CSA WSA AJW-11 AJW-22 AJW-31 AJW-B1 AJW-E1 AJW-C1 AJW-W1 EOSH Services & NAS Integration & Facility Security Flight Inspection Satellite Technical Services Technical Services Technical Services Support Group Group Operations Group Operations Group Group - ESA Group - CSA Group - WSA AJW-13 AJW-23 AJW-33 AJW-B2 AJW-E2 AJW-C2 AJW-W2 Aircraft NAS Engineering Facilities Group Maintenance & National Group Districts Districts Districts Engineering Group Operations Group AJW-14 AJW-24 AJW-34 AJW-B3 AJW-Exx AJW-Cxx AJW-Wxx Communications, Flight Washington Flight Information Business Services, & Weather Program Security Systems Management Engineering Group Hangar 6 Group Group Group AJW-17 AJW-26 AJW-36 AJW-B4 NAS Defense Implementation Safety & Quality Operations Program Group Services Group Assurance Group Integration Group AJW-1A AJW-28 AJW-38 AJW-B5 NAS Quality National Business Assurance & Engineering Flight Program Management Performance Group Support Group Services Group Group AJW-1B AJW-29 AJW-39 AJW-B6 Spectrum Engineering NextGen Facilities Services Group Group AJW-1C AJW-2A FIGURE 1-1 FAA air traffic organization, Technical Operations organizational chart. SOURCE: FAA, 2012a:25. Executive Order 13180 and deleted the term “inherently governmental function” from the original order (U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002). This amendment allowed the FAA to contract some air traf- fic controller functions to private concerns, largely at smaller air traffic control towers (Wigfall, 2006). Maintenance and certification of NAS equipment, however, remained a strictly governmental function that is performed only by the FAA. Consequently, this study focuses only on employees of the FAA. Airway Transportation Systems Specialists President Obama’s 2013 FAA budget submission describes the responsibilities of the FAA Technical Operations branch, and specifically of ATSS, as follows: Technical Operations ensures that thousands of systems, facilities, and pieces of equipment are operation- ally ready to manage our nation’s air traffic control system. Without system specialists and management teams working to complete preventive maintenance and repair down equipment, unscheduled outages can result in delays in the system, negatively impacting the flying public. Another component of the Technical Operations organization that serves as a vital link in delivering air traffic control services is Aviation System Standards’ flight inspection operations. Technical Operations

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BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW 13 employees conduct airborne inspection of electronic signals from ground-based NAVAIDs [navigational aids] to support aircraft departure, en route, and arrival procedures. This group evaluates flight procedures for accuracy, human factors fly-ability, and obstacle clearance. Without this “check,” the NAS would not be as safe as it is today. Technical Operations manages their operations by measuring performance of the NAS based on what Systems or services are available for air traffic control operations (Adjusted Operational Availability). However, this metric directly impacts FAA’s airport capability metric (Average Daily Airport capacity) as noted above, as well as our safety reduction goals (Commercial and General Aviation Fatal Accident Rates). Technical Operations ensures that terminal and en route controllers have all critical parts of the NAS infrastructure available for the safety and efficient delivery of air traffic services. (Department of Transportation, 2012:23) The Technical Operations service unit of the FAA includes more than 9,000 employees, two-thirds of whom are ATSS personnel.1 In fiscal year 2012, Technical Operations had a budget of $1.7 billion. Thus, Technical Operations includes approximately 19 percent of the total FAA employees and less than 12 percent of the $15.9 billion total FAA budget (DOT, 2012). There are five types types of facilities in Technical Operations: (1) Air Route Traffic Control Centers, also known as En Route centers, which track aircraft once they travel beyond the terminal airspace and reach cruising altitude and include Service Operations Centers that coordinate work and monitor equip- ment; (2) Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities, which control air traffic as aircraft ascend from and descend to airports and generally cover a radius of about 40 miles around the primary airport, which also include a Service Operations Center; (3) Core Airports (or Operational Evolution Partnership airports), the nation’s busiest airports; (4) the General National Airspace System, comprising the facilities located outside the larger locations, including rural airports and equipment not based at any airport; and (5) Operations Control Centers, the facilities that coordinate work and monitor equipment for a Service Area (Eastern, Central, Western) in the United States (Grant Thornton, 2011). 2 One general position description covers all ATSS employees in Job Series 2101 in the Technical Operations unit of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization: Airway Transportation Systems Specialists (ATSS) install and maintain electronic equipment and light- ing aids associated with facilities and services required for aviation navigation to ensure a reliable, safe, and smooth flow of air traffic. This involves work with radar, communications, computers, navigational aids, airport lighting aids, and electrical/mechanical support for facilities on and off airports within the network of the National Airspace System. It includes periodic maintenance (inspection and analysis of equipment with associated adjustments), corrective maintenance, troubleshooting, repair and replacement of malfunctioning equipment, and certification. ATSS may be required to maintain entire facilities, includ- ing electronic equipment, electrical power distribution, emergency backup power, power conditioning systems, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Many ATSS work out of offices located at or near airports and on service equipment located on airports, in air traffic control towers, automated flight service stations, air route traffic control centers, in open fields, or even on remote mountain tops. 3 ATSS personnel maintain equipment and services of the NAS in the three Service Areas (Eastern, Central, and Western) throughout the United States, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico. All ATSS positions are covered by a collective bargaining agreement with the Professional Aviation Safety Special- 1Rich McCormick, director, Labor Analysis, FAA, presentation on Labor Analysis to the Committee on Staffing Needs of Systems Specialists in Aviation, October 19, 2012. 2Ibid. 3ATSS posting found at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/313337100 [May 2013].

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14 ASSESSMENT OF STAFFING NEEDS OF SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS IN AVIATION ists (PASS), a labor union of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. The most recent collective bargaining agreement was ratified on December 16, 2012. Roles and Duties ATSS personnel are employed at a variety of facilities throughout the United States and its territories, ranging from small airports to large TRACON facilities and major airports. All facilities need all special- ties to cover the equipment, although smaller facilities may use more multi-certified ATSS personnel while larger facilities will have many ATSS personnel with deeper skills in individual specialties. The ATSS work is composed primarily of four types of tasks: 1. Performing scheduled (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) preventive maintenance on equipment 2. Standing watch for detection of adverse events and unscheduled outages (while working on other tasks) 3. Returning equipment to service following an unplanned outage and after certification 4. Performing upgrades and equipment changes as the NAS evolves This work is carried out inside the tower/TRACON, at a closely adjacent airfield, or at a remote location. At smaller facilities, the ATSS personnel typically schedule their own daily tasks based on the list of required scheduled maintenance or any equipment that is out of service and needs to be repaired immediately. Priority of tasks depends on the safety of the traveling public and is typically set by under- standing the impact of equipment outages on the NAS and the deadlines for preventive maintenance or upgrading equipment. ATSS personnel interact with each other to provide support across specialties, communicating directly rather than through a hierarchy. Facilities of different sizes use different manage- ment structures. At facilities with larger staffs, there is more direct coordination by management, while at smaller facilities work is more likely to be coordinated by the ATSS personnel themselves. At any facility, the ATSS personnel performing a task can call on technical back-up at two levels—either experienced technicians with a great deal of knowledge or engineers with even more detailed knowledge—although these personnel may not be immediately available at all hours. 4 ATSS personnel may pursue certification in five technical disciplines: Communication, Environ- mental, Navaid, Surveillance, and Automation (FAA, 2011b). Most ATSS will continue with additional training over their careers in Technical Operations in order to diversify their skills and certify in multiple disciplines. ORIGIN OF STUDY AND STATEMENT OF TASK In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658) was signed by Presi- dent Barack Obama.5 This law contained requests for studies to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, including a study of the methods and accompanying assumptions of the FAA used to estimate its staffing needs for FAA systems specialists, referred to in this document as “ATSS.” In the operational context, ATSS personnel are also referred to as “systems specialists” and as “2101s,” the latter being a reference to their Office of Personnel Management job classification. In response to one of these requests, the National Research Council of the National Academies appointed an ad hoc committee in September 4Comments submitted to Staffing Needs of Systems Specialists in Aviation Stakeholder webpage, 2013. 5H.R. 658, 112th Congress: FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Available: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/ bills/112/hr658 [June 2013].

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BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW 15 BOX 1-1 Statement of Task An ad hoc committee will conduct a study of the assumptions and methods used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to estimate staffing needs for FAA systems specialists to ensure proper maintenance and certification of the national airspace system. The committee will review available infor- mation on (A) the duties of employees in job series 2101 (Airways Transportation Systems Specialist) in the Technical Operations service unit; (B) the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union of the AFL-CIO; (C) the present-day staffing models employed by the FAA; (D) any materials already produced by the FAA including a recent gap analysis on staffing requirements; (E) current research on best staffing models for safety; and (F) non-U.S. staffing standards for employees in similar roles. Additionally, the FAA will assist in the committee’s efforts by identifying relevant stakeholder organizations and agencies and facilitating communication with them. Based on its analysis of the available information, the committee will produce a report that will include • a description and evaluation of current FAA staffing models and standards for systems specialists; •  ecommendations for objective staffing standards that will maintain the safety of the National Air- r space System going forward; and •  ecommendations for the steps needed to transition from the current staffing models and ap- r proaches used by the FAA to the plans for staffing recommended by the committee. 2012 composed of members representing multiple disciplines. The task of this Committee on Staffing Needs of Systems Specialists in Aviation (hereafter, “the committee”) is presented in Box 1-1. At the first meeting of the committee on October 18-19, 2012, the FAA gave additional guidance regarding the task at hand, informing the committee that a contract between PASS, the labor union that represents ATSS employees, and the FAA would be ratified and that the staffing level of 6,100, although arbitrary, would remain in place for the first 16 months of the new contract.6 The FAA representatives also noted that this number was a base for staffing levels and not a ceiling. The FAA explained in a later meeting that the agreement called for a “scientifically valid” model to be used to determine the optimal staffing level for the ATSS class of workers. In discussions with representatives of the FAA, the com- mittee clarified another requirement of the task, the request for recommendations for objective staffing standards that will maintain the safety of the NAS going forward. Rather than establish a standard for staffing models (i.e., the number of ATSS employees needed to fulfill the FAA’s mission), the commit- tee was asked to identify relevant factors and considerations necessary to create a model that will yield a staffing number. SCOPE AND COMMITTEE APPROACH The scope of the committee’s task was to review relevant FAA reports, data models, performance metrics, surveys, job descriptions, and information about staffing models from other sources and to engage the FAA, PASS, ATSS personnel, and other stakeholders of the FAA to achieve the stated goals. Stakeholders (see Table 1-1) were identified by the FAA,7 and input was requested from several primary 6Thecontract vote by PASS had been held and approved prior to the first committee meeting. 7Stakeholderlist prepared by FAA staff and sent by Rich McCormick, director, Labor Analysis, FAA, to the committee on November 28, 2012.

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16 ASSESSMENT OF STAFFING NEEDS OF SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS IN AVIATION TABLE 1-1 Stakeholders Identified by the FAA Stakeholder Category Air Traffic Management Primary Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) Primary National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) Primary National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) Primary Flight Standards Primary Flight Inspections Primary Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy Primary General Aviation Secondary U.S. Congress Secondary Flight Services Stations Secondary Airlines Secondary Airports Secondary Airport Authorities Secondary Regional Administrators Secondary Nonfederal Towers Secondary Other Federal Departments Secondary Department of the Interior—Fisheries and Wildlife Services Department of Commerce—National Weather Service Department of Defense—National Defense Program Office General Aviation Foreign Governments Secondary stakeholders, primarily those who could be contacted directly. In addition, a webpage was set up for public comment. Most of the respondents were ATSS personnel. The committee also conducted site visits to observe the work of ATSS personnel in context, to better understand the requirements of the job. As noted, the committee identified a number of sources of information relevant to achieving its goals, including documents, discussions, research literature, and committee members’ observations at selected facilities. The documents reviewed included job descriptions of 2101s in the Technical Operations ser- vice unit, FAA documentation providing targets and performance outcomes, and information collected from the union that represents the ATSS personnel, PASS. Information on staffing models and standards used in other countries was also requested but not received. Additionally, information was gathered at committee meetings in the form of presentations and discussions by FAA headquarters staff, contrac- tors, and PASS representatives who shared and discussed current staffing concerns and other challenges. The committee reviewed staffing models for similar jobs and studied the manner in which these models integrated safety and efficiency parameters, as well as the approaches used to develop such models. As detailed below, several facilities were visited to discuss relevant issues with ATSS and related personnel, including site visits at Leesburg, Dulles, Los Angeles International, Greenville-Spartanburg, and Buffalo. During the first meeting on October 18-19, 2012, in Washington, DC, the FAA discussed the need for the study and the key factors that the FAA’s representatives felt needed to be addressed in a staffing model. The committee deliberated on next steps in the formulation of future meeting agendas and site visits to better understand the key activities to be conducted for this study. The second meeting of the committee was held on December 6-7, 2012, in Washington, DC. The committee visited two sites on December 7, 2012, to further explore workload factors through discussion with Technical Operations personnel and to develop a contextual understanding of the tasks conducted by ATSS employees in the course of daily operations. The two sites were the Washington Center in

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BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW 17 Leesburg, Virginia, and Washington Dulles International Airport Tower in Dulles, Virginia. The third meeting was held on January 23-24, 2013, in Washington, DC, and focused on report writing and content updates. An FAA question and answer session was held at this meeting to gain additional information and clarifications and to answer questions that were still pending from previous sessions. At the fourth meeting, held on February 27-28, 2013, in Irvine, California, the committee focused on writing its report. In addition to the committee meetings, individual members completed site visits at the following FAA locations: Buffalo, New York; Greenville, South Carolina; and Los Angeles, California. IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN-SYSTEMS INTEGRATION The committee discussed several guiding principles to help identify the parameters and models to define the ATSS workload and establish appropriate staffing levels. These included human-resources manpower and personnel models, management systems models using operations research and optimi- zation formulas, and the FAA’s traditional models, which were currently in use. The committee agreed that an understanding of the relationships among the system components and the workforce was critical to an integrative effort toward optimizing staffing relative to workload. The committee conceptualized the maintenance of the NAS as a complex, dynamic system with significant interdependencies among all system components, including the ATSS personnel who maintain them. The committee drew mainly from the human-systems integration (HSI) framework because of its history and use across aviation, defense, aerospace, medical, and other complex organizational systems for the past three decades. The HSI framework requires that no one component of a system should be considered in isolation; the careful integration of all systems components maximizes outcomes related to the pursuit of increased safety and heightened performance (Booher, 2003; National Research Council, 2007). In a traditional HSI framework, the system comprises multiple domains such as manpower, personnel, training, surviv- ability, safety, occupational health, environment, habitability, and human factors engineering (U.S. Air Force, undated). To fulfill the charge of the committee and make recommendations regarding the FAA Systems Specialists, the focus in this report is on exploring the domains of manpower, personnel, safety, and training. With respect to addressing workforce needs, the committee felt that the interdependence of these four areas was particularly relevant to the statement of task. The consideration of environmental factors in Chapter 2 is a direct consequence of using an HSI framework. It is the committee’s judgment that the absence of a viable manpower model has undermined the FAA’s capability to systematically apply an HSI-centered approach across all domains. A conceptual model of HSI is illustrated in Figure 1-2 (U.S. Air Force, undated). STRUCTURE OF THIS REPORT This report contains five chapters. This chapter provided an overview of the ATSS job and the context in which it is performed; it also introduces the HSI framework, which guided the committee’s considerations. Chapter 2 discusses inputs received from stakeholders related to the variables that should be included in a staffing model for the ATSS job. It also contains a more detailed synopsis of the com- mittee’s understanding of the role of ATSS personnel. Chapter 3 presents criteria and characteristics of good staffing models in general and in particular as they apply to ATSS personnel. In Chapter 4, the committee evaluates past FAA staffing models according to the criteria discussed. Chapter 5 concludes with a discussion of the steps the FAA needs to transition to a future model that conforms to the com- mittee’s recommendations.

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18 ASSESSMENT OF STAFFING NEEDS OF SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS IN AVIATION FIGURE 1-2  A conceptual model of human-systems integration. SOURCE: U.S. Air Force, undated.