FAA’s Budget: is pay inflated at FAA?

FAA has become something of a poster child for the sequester battles. Thus, FAA should be giving serious consideration to how to reduce costs. A starting point would be to establish precise cost data within FAA. If any costs are determined to be inordinately high, it will be valuable to research the history (i.e., how those costs came to be), so as to ensure costs do not inflate unreasonably in the future.

The key to all of this research is to get the data. Obviously, civil servants have a right to considerable privacy, but among the details FAA may NOT conceal are their job description and pay history. The courts have confirmed time and again that other citizens have a right to know: how much is FAA paying, to do what specific job, and to whom exactly are these public funds being paid?  We need this information, to ensure our government works effectively (and to help it to correct when a failure has occurred).

Years ago, a friend pointed out that the bulk of this data is available online. It took very little research to find these websites with Federal Pay Data:

If you use these links, you will need to input search parameters. The whole process is simple, intuitive and quick.

A small research project: FAA HQ Pay for 2010

I used the above online databases, and I did a short research project. Initially, I was just curious to know how much various FAA officials were paid. Specifically, I had been repeatedly frustrated by a few FAA officials who had mishandled my many FOIA requests. These FAA officials seemed completely ineffective, predictably botching the FOIA responses with excessive delays, incorrect records, concealment of data later proven to be improperly concealed, etc. It had seemed to me that, at two extremes, either they were corrupt and knowingly obstructing my FOIA rights, or they were grossly incompetent. It also seemed that maybe they were lacking in competence because they were disillusioned or demoralized with low pay. So, I started looking up pay records…

…and I was completely SHOCKED to find how high FAA pay has climbed in the last decade. Granted, I was an air traffic controller for more than two decades. Up until my forced retirement in late 2008, I had had many discussions with other controllers about how high our pay was, and how wrong it seemed when compared to nurses, teachers, and others in our larger community, who have lots of stress but just do not get paid as much. We all understood at FAA that we, as air traffic controllers, were near the top of the pay heap among federal employees. But, it really shocked me to see that FAA ‘program analysts’ and HR specialists were pulling in so much money, too.

Anyway, my initial curiosity was focused on pay levels for the FAA officials who were always botching my FOIA responses, yet were never held accountable. But, when the sequester morphed into a mainstream FAA issue, I started wondering about ways FAA might be able to reduce costs (thus, fulfill the directive from Congress). I went back to the online databases. I have collected quite a bit of data, and prepared it into some tables. Here is one (HQ 2010 Top 200 Pay), a 4-page color PDF table listing the top 200 FAA payees at Washington, DC. I have shown regular pay, bonuses, and total pay; I have added some color coding to help visualize different work functions; I have ranked them and produced averages for various work functions.

DISCLAIMER: The tables present an interesting collection of data, and I believe the numbers are accurate, but I do not intend to submit a new FOIA to FAA to confirm any of this data. I know they would do so only after offering a FOIA search estimate in the thousands of dollars. So, follow your own senses (and confirm the data at the online databases linked above, if you want).

…I will add some analysis and some other “Top-200’s” in a few days.