U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 201
Washington, D.C. 20036-4505
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION REPORT LEAVES UNANSWERED QUESTIONS REGARDING FAA SAFETY OVERSIGHT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 8/1/03
CONTACT: TRAVIS Q. ELLIOTT
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted to President Bush and the Congress an investigative report responding to a whistleblower’s allegations that Aviation Safety Inspectors (Inspectors) with the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could not obtain enough multiple-entry visas to conduct proper safety oversight of U.S. air carriers operating in Russia. OSC found DOT’s reports deficient.
The whistleblower, Charles W. Lund, former Manager of FAA International Operations and Programs, alleged that since 1993, Inspectors were unable to obtain multiple-entry visas to Russia. Mr. Lund alleged that the lack of multiple-entry visas adversely affected FAA safety oversight, because the Inspectors could not carry out inspections and surveillance unless they made multiple trips to and landings at Russian airports.
As required by law, OSC transmitted Mr. Lund’s disclosures to the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary of Transportation. The allegations were initially investigated by the FAA Office of International Aviation. A subsequent investigation was carried out by the FAA Security and Investigations Division. The agency submitted an initial and two supplemental reports to OSC.
In transmitting the agency report to the President and the Congress, the Special Counsel is required by statute to evaluate whether it contains the necessary information and whether its findings appear reasonable. OSC’s Acting Special Counsel William E. Reukauf found DOT’s reports deficient because: 1) the agency failed to provide sufficient information to establish that they are obtaining an adequate number of multiple-entry visas to conduct proper safety oversight; and 2) the agency’s reports reflect conflicting findings and disagreement within the agency regarding whether the difficulty in obtaining multiple-entry visas for at least a 10-year period affected FAA’s safety oversight of U.S. air carriers operating in Russia.
In FAA’s initial report, the agency acknowledges there was a problem obtaining multiple-entry visas. The Deputy Secretary of Transportation stated that the Inspectors now “routinely” receive multiple-entry visas. He stated further that even while FAA was attempting to resolve the difficulties in obtaining the multiple-entry visas, FAA was able to maintain adequate safety oversight of U.S. air carriers operating in Russia with single-entry visas and a limited number of multiple-entry visas.
Contrary to the findings of the initial report, the first supplemental report concludes that the lack of multiple-entry visas did contribute to FAA’s inability to properly carry out aviation safety inspections. However, the cover letter to that report states that “the Flight Standards Service . . . does not agree with any statement in the [first supplemental report] that indicates the absence of multiple-entry visas resulted in inadequate safety oversight of U.S. carriers that flew into Russia.”
In yet another conflict with FAA’s initial report, the first supplemental report states that the problem of obtaining multiple-entry visas was resolved because no U.S. carriers are currently flying to Eastern Russia. FAA’s second supplemental report failed to clarify or explain any of these inconsistencies.
Because of the inconsistencies in the several reports from DOT, Mr. Reukauf reported that OSC was unable to find that the safety issues raised by the whistleblower have been adequately or even accurately addressed. As noted, the Acting Special Counsel has so advised the President and the appropriate Congressional oversight committees of these deficiencies.
Among its other functions, OSC provides federal employees with a secure channel for blowing the whistle on violations of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. OSC requires agencies to conduct investigations whenever it finds a substantial likelihood that a federal employee’s disclosure demonstrates the existence of one of these conditions. The agency must then report its findings as well as any corrective action taken to OSC. After OSC reviews the report to ensure that it contains the necessary information and that its findings appear reasonable, OSC transmits the report to the President and the Congress for further action, if appropriate.
Copies of DOT’s reports can be obtained by contacting OSC. The closure letter to the President is available at OSC’s website under E-Library.