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                                                     Calendar No. 319
116th Congress      }                                   {       Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session        }                                   {      116-169
_______________________________________________________________________

                                     



                     ATC HIRING REFORM ACT OF 2019

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                                 of the

                  COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND

                             TRANSPORTATION

                                   ON

                                S. 1148







              [GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]







                December 5, 2019.--Ordered to be printed 
                               __________

                      U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE
                      
99-010                     WASHINGTON : 2019 
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
                
       SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
                     one hundred sixteenth congress
                             first session

                 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi, Chairman
JOHN THUNE, South Dakota             MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
ROY BLUNT, Missouri                  AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
TED CRUZ, Texas                      RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut
DEB FISCHER, Nebraska                BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii
JERRY MORAN, Kansas                  EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska                 TOM UDALL, New Mexico
CORY GARDNER, Colorado               GARY C. PETERS, Michigan
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee          TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia  TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Illinois
MIKE LEE, Utah                       JON TESTER, Montana
RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               KYRSTEN SINEMA, Arizona
TODD C. YOUNG, Indiana               JACKY ROSEN, Nevada
RICK SCOTT, Florida

                       John Keast, Staff Director
               David Strickland, Minority Staff Director
















                                                      Calendar No. 319
116th Congress      }                                   {       Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session        }                                   {      116-169

======================================================================



 
                     ATC HIRING REFORM ACT OF 2019

                                _______
                                

                December 5, 2019.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

       Mr. Wicker, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
                Transportation, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 1148]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 1148) to amend title 49, United 
States Code, to require the Administrator of the Federal 
Aviation Administration to give preferential consideration to 
individuals who have successfully completed air traffic 
controller training and veterans when hiring air traffic 
control specialists, having considered the same, reports 
favorably thereon with an amendment and recommends that the 
bill (as amended) do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The purpose of S. 1148 is to reform how the Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA) hires air traffic controllers, 
require the FAA to provide a report on the progress the agency 
is making in regard to the hiring and training of air traffic 
controllers, and direct the Inspector General of the Department 
of Transportation (DOT IG) to review certain air traffic 
controller hiring practices.

                          Background and Needs

    Air traffic controllers are responsible for safely 
separating aircraft within large portions of U.S. airspace. 
There are roughly 14,000 air traffic controllers within the FAA 
workforce. Of these, roughly 10,800 are certified professional 
controllers (CPCs) who have full certification on all positions 
and can provide on-the-job training of new hires. By statute, 
air traffic controllers must be hired prior to turning 30 years 
of age and generally have a mandatory retirement age of 56.\1\ 
Controllers work in three different types of air traffic 
control facilities: tower, terminal, and en-route.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\5 U.S.C. 8335.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Prospective air traffic controllers are required to take 
the Air Traffic Selection Assessment (AT-SA) test, and if they 
pass, candidates then go through classroom training at the FAA 
Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After completing the 
classroom training course, candidates are sent out to the field 
where it takes 2 to 3 years for them to become fully certified. 
Traditionally, the FAA had received many of its candidates for 
air traffic controllers from Collegiate Training Initiative 
(CTI) schools, which are 2- and 4-year non-engineering aviation 
degree schools that offer courses in air traffic control and 
aviation administration.
    In December 2013, based on internal FAA and external 
reviews of the hiring process, the agency updated the hiring 
process for air traffic controllers. One aspect of the update 
that some criticized was the implementation of a biographical 
assessment\2\ for any prospective air traffic controller 
candidate. Candidates were required to ``pass'' the 
biographical assessment in order to move forward. This change 
in the hiring process took effect in 2014, however, the change 
was criticized by many for its lack of transparency and 
effectiveness. In 2014 and 2015, the FAA did not meet its 
hiring goal for air traffic controller candidates, prompting 
significant concern in Congress.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\The FAA described the biographical assessment as a tool which 
predicts controller performance through a process of asking individuals 
to recall and report their typical and sometimes specific behaviors or 
experiences, generally from an earlier time in their lives.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In response to these issues, the FAA Extension, Safety, and 
Security Act of 2016 (FESSA)\3\ contained a provision that 
placed certain statutory requirements on the FAA's air traffic 
controller hiring process.\4\ Pursuant to the new requirements, 
there are two groups from which a candidate for air traffic 
controller can be hired. The first group is for qualified 
individuals who maintain 52 consecutive weeks of air traffic 
control experience. These individuals are hired using a 
separate hiring announcement. Additionally, these applicants 
have a maximum hiring age of 35 and do not have to take the 
biographical assessment. The second group is divided into two 
pools: Pool 1 consists of CTI graduates and veterans, and pool 
2 consists of off-the-street hires. When the FAA issues a 
general hiring announcement for this group, they are 
statutorily required to have at least 50 percent of the hires 
come from pool 1 and there can be no more than a 10-percent 
difference between the two pools. Pool 1 candidates are not 
required to take the biographical assessment, but they must 
pass the AT-SA. However, this new hiring system has resulted in 
unintentional consequences. Under the law, the number of 
controllers from pool 2 which the FAA can hire is limited by 
the number of qualified applicants there are in pool 1. This 
limitation could have a negative impact on the FAA's ability to 
hire the necessary number of air traffic controller candidates.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\Pub. L. 114-190.
    \4\49 U.S.C. 44506.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         Summary of Provisions

    If enacted, S. 1148 would do the following:
           Revise the way the FAA hires and gives 
        preferential consideration to prospective air traffic 
        controller hires from pool 1. Specifically, the 
        legislation would require the FAA to give preferential 
        consideration to pool 1 candidates over pool 2 
        candidates for those who are in each qualification 
        category based on the applicant's pre-employment test 
        score.
           Require the FAA to provide a biannual report 
        on their progress in hiring and training air traffic 
        controllers.
           Add National Guard facilities to the list of 
        facilities where experienced air traffic controllers 
        could have gained their experience.
           Require the DOT IG to conduct a review that 
        assesses the assumptions and methodologies used by the 
        FAA in developing the air traffic controller pre-
        employment test.

                          Legislative History

    S. 1148 was introduced on April 11, 2019, by Senator Hoeven 
(for himself and Senator Shaheen), and was referred to the 
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the 
Senate. Senators Sullivan, Sinema, Capito, McSally, Peters, and 
Inhofe are additional cosponsors. On July 24, 2019, the 
Committee met in open Executive Session and, by voice vote, 
ordered S. 1148 reported favorably with amendments.
    The provisions in this bill are related to section 2106 of 
FESSA,\4\ which, as H.R. 636, passed the Senate in the 114th 
Congress. Section 2106 contained language substantively similar 
to H.R. 5292, the Air Traffic Controller Hiring Improvement Act 
of 2016, which, as a provision contained within S. 2658, the 
FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016, also passed the Senate in the 
114th Congress.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\Pub. L. 114-190.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            Estimated Costs

    In accordance with paragraph 11(a) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate and section 403 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee provides the 
following cost estimate, prepared by the Congressional Budget 
Office:

              [GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


    S. 1148 would change the hiring preferences the Federal 
Aviation Administration (FAA) uses when hiring air traffic 
controllers. Specifically, the bill would authorize the FAA to 
prioritize hiring air traffic controllers who are military 
veterans and who have graduated from an FAA Collegiate Training 
Initiative school. The bill also would require the Inspector 
General of the Department of Transportation to report to the 
Congress on the pre-employment test used for air traffic 
controllers. Under the bill, the FAA would report every six 
months to the Congress on the hiring and training of air 
traffic controllers.
    Using information from the FAA, CBO estimates that the 
additional flexibility under the bill could make it easier to 
hire air traffic controllers, but any reduced costs would not 
be significant over the 2020-2024 period.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Matthew 
Pickford. The estimate was reviewed by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Statement

    In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       NUMBER OF PERSONS COVERED

    In S. 1148, as reported, section 4 makes changes to those 
eligible for the FAA's hiring announcement for experienced air 
traffic controllers by adding qualified individuals who 
operated at National Guard facilities. Additionally, section 2 
requires the FAA to modify how it hires from pool 1 and pool 2, 
but it should not significantly change the number of persons 
covered.

                            ECONOMIC IMPACT

    S. 1148, as reported, would change certain aspects of the 
way the FAA hires prospective air traffic controllers and does 
not directly regulate individuals or businesses. As the bill 
removes a potential limit on the number of individuals that can 
be hired, it could allow for more such people to become 
employed by the FAA as controllers.

                                PRIVACY

    S. 1148, as reported, would not have a negative impact on 
the privacy rights of individuals.

                               PAPERWORK

    S. 1148, as reported, would require the FAA to produce 
biannually a report on the hiring and training of air traffic 
controllers. Furthermore, the DOT IG would be required to 
conduct a review assessing the methodologies and assumptions 
used in the development of the pre-employment screening test 
for air traffic controllers.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 
rule.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Section 1. Short title

    This section would provide that the bill may be cited as 
the ``ATC Hiring Reform Act of 2019''.

Section 2. Hiring of air traffic control specialists

    This section would amend section 44506 (f)(1)(B)(i) of 
title 49, United States Code, to require the FAA, when hiring 
from the two pools established in that section, to give 
preferential consideration within each qualification category 
(based on pre-employment testing results) to pool 1 candidates 
before pool 2 candidates.

Section 3. Report on air traffic controller and training

    This section would require the FAA to provide an initial 
report no later than December 31, 2019, and then subsequently 
every 6 months, providing various statistics and data regarding 
the agency's hiring and training of air traffic controllers. 
This includes tracking where air traffic controller candidates 
are throughout the hiring and training process at both the FAA 
Academy and air traffic control facilities.

Section 4. Ensuring hiring preference for applicants with experience at 
        an air traffic control facility of the National Guard

    This section would amend section 44506(f)(1)(A)(ii) of 
title 49, United States Code, to clarify that individuals who 
worked at National Guard facilities are among those eligible 
for the hiring preference afforded to experienced controllers.

Section 5. DOT Inspector General review and report

    This section would direct the DOT IG to undertake a review 
that would assess the assumptions and methodologies used in 
developing the air traffic controller pre-employment test and 
provide a report to appropriate committees of Congress within 
270 days.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
material is printed in italic, existing law in which no change 
is proposed is shown in roman):

                        TITLE 49--TRANSPORTATION

                    SUBTITLE VII--AVIATION PROGRAMS

                    PART A--AIR COMMERCE AND SAFETY

                          SUBPART III--SAFETY

            CHAPTER 445--FACILITIES, PERSONNEL, AND RESEARCH


Sec. 44506. Air traffic controllers

    (a) * * *
    (f) Hiring of Certain Air Traffic Control Specialists.--
          (1) Consideration of applicants.--
                  (A) Ensuring selection of most qualified 
                applicants.--In appointing individuals to the 
                position of air traffic controller, the 
                Administrator shall give preferential 
                consideration to qualified individuals 
                maintaining 52 consecutive weeks of air traffic 
                control experience involving the full-time 
                active separation of air traffic after receipt 
                of an air traffic certification or air traffic 
                control facility rating within 5 years of 
                application while serving at--
                          (i) a Federal Aviation Administration 
                        air traffic control facility;
                          (ii) a civilian or military air 
                        traffic control facility of the 
                        Department of Defense (including a 
                        facility of the National Guard); or
                          (iii) a tower operating under 
                        contract with the Federal Aviation 
                        Administration under section 47124.
                  (B) Consideration of additional applicants.--
                          (i) In general.--After giving 
                        preferential consideration to 
                        applicants under subparagraph (A), the 
                        Administrator shall consider additional 
                        applicants for the position of air 
                        traffic controller by [referring an 
                        approximately equal number of 
                        individuals for appointment among the 2 
                        applicant pools described in this 
                        subparagraph. The number of individuals 
                        referred for consideration from each 
                        group shall not differ by more than 10 
                        percent.] giving further preferential 
                        consideration, within each 
                        qualification category based upon pre-
                        employment testing results, to pool 1 
                        applicants described in clause (ii) 
                        before pool 2 applicants described in 
                        clause (iii).

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


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