FSS Controllers Fear They'll Be Outsourced
NAATS, one of the oldest federal workers unions around, is in
serious trouble -- it's members could soon find themselves replaced
by contractors and looking for work. America's Flight Service
Stations could soon be under new management.
Darrell Mounts (above), a NAATS regional rep based at the Denver
Flight Service Station, is upset that the FAA has asked for bids on
outsourcing the nation's FSS operations, even after pledging $5
million in sorely needed physical and logical upgrades. No new
pilot briefers have been hired over the past two years and moral,
he told ANN, is at an all-time low.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey earlier this year called for an
A-76 study to determine whether Flight Services is a candidate for
outsourcing to a company like Raytheon. Speaking last week at the
"Meet the Administrator" forum during AirVenture 2004, Blakey told
more than 700 pilots, controllers and enthusiasts that it's time to
change the FSS system.
"We are seeking at this point to really revamp and improve the
service and candidly, provide it on a much more cost-effective
basis," she said. "The costs of doing business there have risen so
high that we simply cannot sustain it in the way we've got it
configured now. We are looking for the best ideas, the best
approach and, yes, at a good value."
"All the study really means is, at the end of the -- quote --
study. In March of next year, they're going to award a contract,"
said Mounts. "Now, the contract will either be to somebody like
Raytheon, who is bidding against us... or we'll get the
But Mounts contends the A-76 study parameters involve only about
half of the functions now performed by FSS briefers.
"Who'll pay for the other services... we don't know," Mounts
said. "It makes us feel that this is all geared toward the
contractor." Mounts accuses the FAA of not following government
regulations that cover outsourcing. "They did not allow the
employees union to have any input at all."
In essence, Mounts says, the government has already all but
decided to give his job away.
"They absolutely know we'll have to close facilities once this
contracting out goes forward. We know there has to be consolidation
of Flight Service Stations -- not because we want to close them,
but because we have no choice."
Blakey acknowledged the equipment is out of date and that the
FSS system needs more people. She said results from the A-76 study
should be in later this month and a decision on whether NAATS will
continue to man the stations should be made in March. Mounts,
however, believes the decision has been made and he's worried that
he, along with the other 2,500 controllers who work at Flight
Service will soon be out of work. He's most concerned about who
will monitor emergency frequencies once his colleagues are forced