Blasting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for avoiding questions into soaring costs and huge overruns on a government contract, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today said that she plans to call FAA officials to the Senate and "hold their feet to the fire."
"Why bother responding if you're only going to offer non-answers on how your agency has failed to meet its obligations, while continuing to waste taxpayer dollars?," asked McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. "The FAA's actions are unacceptable, and I fully intend to hold Administration officials' feet to the fire when I call them in to answer these questions face-to-face."
Last month, McCaskill sent a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta, requesting information about an $860 million government contract intended to help train new and current air traffic controllers, which will run out of money by August 2012, more than one year before the contract is due to end. McCaskill also questioned the FAA's plans to extend the contract by three years without fully addressing the problems that led to the cost overruns and performance shortfalls.
After receiving a three-page response from Huerta last week, in which the Administrator failed to adequately address the decision-making process and plans to prevent waste in the future, McCaskill is vowing to call agency officials to the Senate to answer those same questions in meetings with Senate Committee staff. Agency officials will also be expected to explain their decision to award contractor, Raytheon, more than $28 million in profit on the contract which, in addition to running out of money, has failed to achieve its original goals, including reducing costs, reducing training time, or developing new and innovative training.
In 2008, the FAA awarded the Air Traffic Controller Optimum Training Solution (ATCOTS) contract to the defense contractor Raytheon, in order to train air traffic controllers and to develop new and more efficient training methods. The contract has a base period of five years and was originally valued at $437 million. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General found serious cost overruns, poor procurement practices, and a lack of oversight of the contract.
McCaskill's letter was in response to information provided by the Inspector General during the Inspector General's ongoing review of the contract, which was requested by McCaskill in 2011.
McCaskill has consistently used her Subcommittee to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars-having recently introduced the Comprehensive Contingency Contacting Reform Act, the most significant reform of wartime contracting standards in 60 years. McCaskill introduced the legislation with Senator Jim Webb (Va.) in response to an estimated $60 billion in waste and fraud by contractors working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan.