National Transportation Safety Board: Preliminary Observations on the Value of Comprehensive Planning, and Greater Use of Leading Practices and the Training Academy Page: 2 of 48
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Highlights of GAO-06-801T, a report to
Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on
Commerce, Science and Transportation
Why GAO Did This Study
The National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) is a relatively small
agency that plays a vital role in
transportation safety and has a
worldwide reputation for
investigating accidents. With a staff
of about 400 and a budget of $76.7
million in fiscal year 2006, NTSB
investigates all civil aviation
accidents in the United States, and
significant accidents in railroad,
highway, marine, and pipeline; and
issues safety recommendations to
address issues identified during
accident investigations. To support
its mission, NTSB built a training
academy, which opened in 2003 and
provides training to NTSB
investigators and others. It is
important that NTSB use its
resources efficiently to carry out its
mission and maintain its
preeminence. This testimony, based
on ongoing work for this committee,
addresses the extent to which NTSB
follows leading practices in selected
management areas, addresses
challenges in completing accident
investigations and closing safety
recommendations, and generates
sufficient revenues to cover costs at
Based on completed work to date,
GAO recommends, among other
things, that NTSB develop a revised
strategic plan that follows
develop a full cost accounting
system, and develop a marketing
plan for the academy. NTSB agreed
with GAO's recommendations.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Gerald L.
Dillingham at (202) 512-2834 or
dillinghamg @ gao.gov.
NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY
Preliminary Observations on the Value of
Comprehensive Planning, and Greater
Use of Leading Practices and the Training
What GAO Found
NTSB has recently made progress in following leading management
practices, but overall has a mixed record. For example, NTSB has improved
its financial management by hiring a Chief Financial Officer and putting
controls on its purchasing activities, which should address past problems
with unapproved purchases. However, NTSB lacks a full cost accounting
system, which would inform managers of the resources spent on individual
investigations and provide data to balance office workload. NTSB has also
begun to develop a performance management system that should eventually
link each individual's performance to the agency's strategic goals and
objectives. However, the performance management system will not be fully
functional until NTSB has developed a strategic plan with results-oriented
goals and objectives and specific strategies for achieving them, which are
lacking in the current strategic plan. Other areas, such as human capital and
communications, partially follow leading practices.
Extent to Which NTSB Is Following Leading Practices in Selected Management Areas
Management area Extent to which NTSB follows leading practices
Strategic planning O
Performance management )
Human capital 4
* Leading practices are mostly followed
O Leading practices are partially followed
O Leading practices are minimally followed
Source: GAO's analysis or NTSB inormatio.
While NTSB is accomplishing its accident investigation mission, it faces
challenges that affect the efficiency of the report production and
recommendation close out processes. NTSB routinely takes longer than 2
years to complete major investigations. Several factors may affect the length
of report production, including several revisions of draft reports through
multiple layers of the organization. In addition, the processes for federal
transportation agencies to implement NTSB's safety recommendations and
for NTSB to change the status of recommendations are lengthy, paper-based,
and labor intensive. While Department of Transportation officials have been
working with NTSB to find acceptable means of implementing its
recommendations, they cite the lengthy rule-making process as a challenge
to speedy implementation.
For fiscal years 2004 and 2005, NTSB's academy did not generate sufficient
revenues to cover the costs of providing training. As a result, those portions
of the academy's costs that were not covered by the revenues from tuition
and other sources-approximately $6.3 million in fiscal year 2004 and $3.9
million in fiscal year 2005-were offset by general appropriations to the
agency. While NTSB has taken action to generate revenue from other
sources, such as renting academy space for conferences, it does not have a
marketing plan that seeks to optimize opportunities for additional revenues
at the academy.
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. National Transportation Safety Board: Preliminary Observations on the Value of Comprehensive Planning, and Greater Use of Leading Practices and the Training Academy, text, May 24, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc292609/m1/2/: accessed November 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.