FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta has responded to allegations that his agency ignored or took years to respond to safety concerns raised by employees. He cites as evidence of the agency's proactive stance on the issue its 2009 creation of a separate office to respond to whistle-blower complaints.
"In that period of time, we've made tremendous strides in responding to investigations that get referred to us," Huerta (pictured) said.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is the agency tasked with protecting employees who seek protection for raising concerns about fraud and abuse. In a letter to the White House on May 8, the Office said that it had substantiated seven separate whistle-blower complaints against the FAA. Top among these was that air traffic controllers at a Long Island, NY facility slept and watched movies on the job, and retaliated against supervisors who tried to enforce safety rules.
Bloomberg News reports that Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a letter "Given the recurring and serious nature of these concerns, I write with a strong recommendation that more rigorous oversight measures be put in place" referring to the DOT and FAA. The FAA is said to have the highest rate of internal whistle-blowers among U.S. agencies.
Mr. Huerta defended the FAA's recent whistle-blower response, but did not address the Special Counsel's call for increased oversight. All but four cases referred for investigation in recent years have been closed, according to Huerta. He said "That's four too many. We have to continue to improve on that." He later added "This is a very, very high priority for us. What I have instructed our team to do is to ensure that we are being responsive and follow-up is quick."