U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee joined a group of 17 senators in writing a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta demanding an explanation regarding bonuses awarded to FAA employees earlier this year in advance of sequestration budget cuts.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the FAA notified employees in January of salary bonuses. Three months later, the FAA announced a plan to implement across the board furloughs due to sequestration, which resulted in travel delays for airline passengers. In April, Congress passed legislation that provided the FAA additional flexibility to transfer funding within the agency to prevent reduced operations and staffing.
In the letter, the senators wrote, "We are very concerned by these reports as they once again indicate both a lack of sound business management and a failure by the FAA to adequately plan for implementation of sequestration. At the time when sequestration was one month away, the FAA's leadership ignored Secretary LaHood's specific guidance and awarded bonuses."
Below is the full text of the letter.
Dear Administrator Huerta:
We are writing in regards to recent media reports indicating that you approved salary bonuses for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees earlier this year. The Wall Street Journal's May 14, 2013 online edition indicates that these bonuses came as the FAA was preparing to implement sequestration.
According to The Wall Street Journal, you notified FAA employees on January 14, 2013 that most of them could expect Organizational Success Increases (OSIs) of 1%, and Superior Contribution Increases (SCIs) of 0.6% to 1.8%. Employees at the FAA who qualified for these salary bonuses received additional pay in their February paychecks. Also, The Wall Street Journal reports that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood had previously instructed the heads of the department's operating administrations not to award bonuses and specifically not to award OSI or SCI bonuses. Furthermore, Secretary LaHood reportedly instructed agencies to begin planning how to manage their funds given budget uncertainties and the looming sequester.
We are very concerned by these reports as they once again indicate both a lack of sound business management and a failure by the FAA to adequately plan for implementation of sequestration. At the time when sequestration was one month away, the FAA's leadership ignored Secretary LaHood's specific guidance and awarded bonuses. On March 5, 2013 the FAA contacted all participants in the contract tower program explaining that the FAA's guiding principles in implementing the budget sequestration are to maintain high safety standards and to minimize the impact to the greatest number of passengers. The FAA then announced "across the board" furloughs of FAA employees. In an April 18, 2013 briefing with Senate staff, the FAA Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle reported that the FAA specifically chose not to analyze alternative furlough options or alternative spending cuts because those analyses would have violated the "fundamental premise" of the FAA's implementation of the sequester, "equity among employees." This fundamental premise directly contradicts the March 5 guidance issued by the FAA. These decisions made by the FAA's senior leadership are cause for concern.
Please share with us why you chose to ignore Secretary LaHood's guidance, and why you felt it necessary and appropriate to award salary bonuses to FAA employees instead of adequately preparing for sequestration. We further request that you explain what impacts these additional salary expenditures had on your decision to implement sequestration by imposing across the board furlough cuts, instead of implementing sequestration in a way that would minimize the impact to the greatest number of passengers. Finally, we request that you share with us the savings to the FAA if the agency had not awarded salary bonuses.
We appreciate your consideration of our concerns, and look forward to receiving your written response. Should you or your staff have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)