It could - it should - have been so much more. But the latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on " Potential FAA Funding Options" does little to provide more data showing if there is truly a need to change the system.
"Congress and other decision makers rely on the GAO's accuracy and objectivity in analyzing important policy issues," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Seldom does the GAO take a few questions and answer them without asking the more strategic question: What is the problem we're trying to solve?
"Yet in this report, the GAO seems to have accepted - without question or data - the airline and the FAA's position that the current FAA funding system is 'broken' and needs to be changed."
According to Boyer, the GAO report failed to consider the existing tax-based funding system as a reasonable option, nor did it include the most recent data, showing rising revenues and projections of an aviation trust fund surplus that will accommodate ATC system growth and modernization.
"This system has been extremely effective in providing needed financial resources for the FAA and its associated programs for more than three decades," said Boyer.
While the GAO appeared to accept at face value the airlines' and FAA's contention that the current tax system was "inequitable," it also noted that the FAA still doesn't have an accurate way to determine what costs each user imposes on the system. "FAA's current cost accounting system is not able to provide the information required for a cost allocation analysis," the GAO said in the report.
The Treasury Department took a dim view of the GAO's analysis of funding options. The report notes, "According to Treasury, GAO raised several critical issues, but did not provide any analysis that would help policymakers judge reform options."
Boyer said, "For the past 18 months, lots of misinformation about the state of the FAA's funding has been bantered about, with no concrete proposal to address. Revising the aviation tax system is a huge issue for the nation's general aviation aircraft owners and pilots. It's essential that the GAO present a more balanced and studied explanation of the current situation, what's broken (if anything), and the possible options for the future."
November 2, 2006