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$tate of FAA: Agency Cries Poverty but Spends Lavishly on Itself - (11/16/2005)

WASHINGTON – Like a giddy teenager at the mall, the Federal Aviation Administration has polished off a wild, fiscal year-ending shopping spree that belies the agency’s empty rhetoric on the true causes of the FAA’s failure to maintain and modernize the U.S. air traffic control system. It provides the clearest proof yet that this critical government agency is failing under the weight of mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility.

And to congratulate itself for a spending job well done, the FAA handed out more than $5 million in management bonuses.

“If the FAA moved as quickly to address the controller staffing crisis and install new technology as it did to spend its so-called ‘leftover’ money at the end of the fiscal year, then we’d have a much safer and more efficient air traffic control system than we do today,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said. “This is yet another case of the agency saying one thing in public and doing something totally different behind the scenes. Financial accountability was one of the themes of FAA Administrator Marion Blakey’s speech to employees on Tuesday. But this shopping spree runs counter to that message and reaffirms our contention that the FAA is mismanaged.”

Among the items gobbled up by the agency’s recent mad dash to furniture, electronics and appliance stores is a $5,000 “turbo” paper shredder for the Atlanta aircraft certification office. But it can only shred five sheets at a time and employees say it is very noisy. The shredder this machine replaced was more than adequate for the office’s needs and was only four years old.

Also on the list is a $12,500 copier for Boston Center, three $325 leather high-back chairs for Seattle Boeing Field Tower and a brand new 40-inch Samsung LCD TV for a manager’s office at Fort Worth Center. At Detroit Tower, where the FAA has refused to clean up a black mold problem that has sickened employees and gotten the attention of local members of Congress, the FAA spent thousands on new computers with flat screen monitors for the tower’s managers. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Below is a look at many facilities and what they received in the shopping spree:

ALLENTOWN TOWER: A $50,000 outdoor project in which the parking lot and tower roads were sealed and relined. A second project involved the sidewalks and patio being drilled, with a concrete mixture pumped in underneath.
ALBUQUERQUE CENTER: A $30,000 expenditure on new office chairs and tables for the training room. The agency also had to purchase four power screwdrivers needed to assemble some of the furniture. Meanwhile, over half of the controllers’ chairs in the cafeteria are unsafe to sit in.
ATLANTA AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATION OFFICE: Brand new, $5,000 turbo paper shredder to replace one that worked just fine.
BIRMINGHAM: Two new, expensive pair of binoculars that the facility did not need, and a brand-new refrigerator.
BOSTON TOWER: Newly-painted walls and carpeting on the main level. A new microwave/convection oven for the break room. New refrigerator, electric griddle pan, toaster oven, coffee pot and four-slice toaster.
BOSTON CENTER: A new loading dock, valued at $10,000. New copier, valued at $12,500.
BRISTOL (Tenn.) TRI-CITY TOWER: A new $700 printer and a fax/scanner/copier/printer combo.
CLEVELAND CENTER: These items arrived over the last six weeks: 50-100 chairs with carts for stacking and wheeling around, 10 tables with a cart, three new computers with flat screen monitors, a new projector suspended from the ceiling in training classroom, five new computer monitors for traffic management unit, new filing cabinet and new fax machine.
COLORADO SPRINGS TOWER: Controllers were told by FAA managers that there was $5,700.00 available to buy “stuff” for the operation, including: four La-Z-Boy-style chairs for the downstairs break room, a new couch for same break room, a new downstairs break room table, three new microwaves, a refrigerator for upstairs break room, a new TV stand for upstairs break room, a microwave stand for upstairs break room, two new coffee makers, two end tables for downstairs break room, new coffee table for downstairs break room, two new office chairs and two new printers.
DENVER AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATION OFFICE: A new fax machine and $800 shredder.
DENVER TRACON: A new table and chairs for the break room.
DETROIT TOWER: Five new computers with flat panel monitors showed up and no one knew for whom they were destined for. They ended up in FAA managers’ offices.
EL MONTE (Calif.) TOWER: The manager’s office was totally remodeled with brand new desks and two new computers.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. TOWER: The FAA air traffic manager at the facility received, just prior to October, a new executive desk and three leather executive chairs.
FORT WORTH CENTER: In the Aircraft Certification office, the FAA bought new laptop computers, and related computer accessories. In addition, a brand new 40-inch Samsung LCD TV arrived in the Directorate Manager's office. The TV alone cost at least $2,500, plus the FAA purchased a wall mount which is approximately $200.
FRESNO TOWER: Four new computers, with flat screen monitors, 11 leather chairs for the training room, a projector screen for team meetings, new audio/video equipment. In addition, a new desk and file cabinet was purchased for the acting manager, who was called by the FAA hub manager and told to go out and spend money.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. TOWER: A new television in the break room, a new fax machine in the manager’s office and a new office chair for the supervisor..
HARTFORD BRADLEY TOWER: A $5,000 aluminum canopy above the front entryway structure that extends 20 feet out.
HOUSTON D.W. HOOKS TOWER: The Southwest Region spent $82,877.33 for 130 chairs. Hooks Tower received many of these. Meanwhile, two glass tower panels are opaque from condensation and need to be replaced.
KANSAS CITY TOWER: Two new couches for the FAA facility manager’s office, a new file cabinet in the main office, two new microwaves, three new couches for the break room, two new refrigerators, 10 chairs for the break room dining tables, and a new leather chair in the operation manager’s office.
LA VERNE (Calif.) BRACKETT TOWER: In recent weeks, several new desks, Dell computers and printers, file cabinets and bookshelves have arrived.
LOS ANGELES AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATION OFFICE: New Furniture for at least one office, plus numerous Plantronics hands-free telephone headsets.
LOS ANGELES CENTER: A shipment of 25 new pieces of furniture arrived – including oak desks – and the old, but very usable furniture is now blocking a main hallway in the facility. In some places, there is less than three feet in which to get by, which is a violation of the fire code.
NEW YORK CENTER: Three furniture trucks showed up at the loading dock. This is in addition to a shipment received a few weeks ago. New computers arrived in the supervisors’ offices.
NORTH PHILADELPHIA TOWER: A new conference table and leather chairs.
ONTARIO (Calif.) TOWER: FAA manager went out and bought a complete new office set, including a leather couch and chairs, new desks and computers. Even coasters for cups and drinks to protect the finish on the desk.
PHOENIX TOWER: Facility bought computers, monitors, a laptop, two dozen high-end chairs, a fax machine and a new color printer.
PHOENIX-DEER VALLEY TOWER: FAA managers spent $2,500 on a laptop computer and several flat screen monitors, along with two leather executive chairs.
RALEIGH-DURHAM TOWER: The air traffic manager was given only a few hours to spend the facility’s remaining yearly money. He offered controllers new breakroom furniture and ended up picking out six tables and 24 chairs, even though there was nothing wrong with the old furniture. In addition, the manager bought a new top-of-the-line Gateway laptop computer.
SANTA ROSA (Calif.) SONOMA COUNTY TOWER: Received $4,000 for new break room furniture. FAA manager bought couches, an entertainment center, lamps, and a new desk.
SALT LAKE CENTER: New chairs for the cafeteria area. They were totally unnecessary and controllers say they are five times as hard to sit on than the original ones.
SALT LAKE TRACON: The facility spent approximately $12,000 on a customized supervisors desk.
SAN FRANCISCO TOWER: New Dell computers just arrived; a dozen of them, valued at over $50,000.
SEATTLE BOEING FIELD: The acting FAA manager ordered and received three Legacy high-back chairs. They are for the facility’s two FAA supervisors and manager. The store they were purchased from sells them for about $325 each.
SEATTLE TRACON: Two new wireless headsets for supervisors and traffic management coordinator, along with 20 new computers.
SOUTH BEND TOWER: The manager received new furniture and gave his old desk to a supervisor. The manager also purchased a new, large desk for himself, the facility secretary and others, along with several filing cabinets and other furniture for his office.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRACON: Three leather couches and two big leather chairs. The manager redecorated his office with leather furniture. New plasma televisions in the break room.
WASHINGTON CENTER: The FAA spent over $6,000 on large, coffee-table style books on how to recognize certain types of aircraft. In addition, at least five FAA support managers and three administrative specialists each received new furniture in their offices. Also delivered recently were nearly 20 large, banquet-style tables, new office chairs and drafting desks in the training area.
WESTERN PACIFIC REGION, ORANGE COUNTY HUB: The hub spent $70,000 on 30 new computers to replace those that were only a year old.
FAA CONTRACT TEAM: The team designated by the FAA to negotiate with NATCA on a new collective bargaining agreement all showed up on the first day of negotiations with brand-new, matching Dell laptop computers. All of them had the same one and all of them have the same external mouse.

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