Which federal agency began moving into its current headquarters building on November 22, 1963—the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—the national aviation authority of the United States—has the power to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation. Its predecessor, the Federal Aviation Agency, was created by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. With no dedicated office space, employees of the growing agency were housed in several widely dispersed buildings around Washington, D.C., including some “temporary” World War II–era buildings. The agency began to consolidate its employees in the newly completed Federal Office Building 10A (now known as the Orville Wright Federal Building) at 800 Independence Avenue, S.W., on that fateful day in November 1963.
The FAA adopted its current name on April 1, 1967, when it became a part of the newly created Department of Transportation. Its mission is “to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. According to its vision statement, it strives “to reach the next level of safety, efficiency, environmental responsibility and global leadership.” Its primary roles include the following:
- Developing and operating an air traffic control and navigation system for both civil and military aircraft;
- Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics;
- Regulating air navigation facilities’ flight inspection standards;
- Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology;
- Issuing, suspending or revoking pilot certificates;
- Regulating civil aviation to promote safety, especially through local offices called Flight Standards District Offices;
- Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental impacts of civil aviation; and
- Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation.
The Obama administration has requested $9.7 billion in funding for the FAA for FY2013, $65 million (0.67%) higher than its FY2012 enacted budget. The agency has about 47,000 permanent employees. In addition to its headquarters offices—many of which are still located at 800 Independence Ave. and in the adjacent Wilbur Wright Federal Building at 600 Independence Ave.—the agency leases more than 200,000 square feet in six buildings in the District of Columbia, the largest block of which is nearly 100,000 square feet at 950 L’Enfant Plaza. Geographically, the agency is divided into nine regions, with regional headquarters in cities from Anchorage to Atlanta. The FAA also operates ten international field offices/units, five aircraft evaluation group offices, and more than 400 air traffic control facilities nationwide. Its two largest field facilities are the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center at Oklahoma City and the William J. Hughes Technical Center near Atlantic City, N.J.
A recent (June 3) Washington Post article reports that the FAA is considering a major consolidation of its offices in the District of Columbia, and that it is looking into leasing as much as 270,000 square feet in Constitution Center (ironically, the former Department of Transportation headquarters) at 400 Seventh Street, S.W., a building that has been in the news recently because of a dispute between the building’s owner and the SEC (which entered into a lease in 2010 for 900,000 square feet, then determined that it did not need the space).
The FAA also is preparing for an already delayed large-scale consolidation and realignment of hundreds of air traffic facilities – and three of its regional offices. An update on that effort, released last week (May 31, 2012), suggests that the agency needs to develop a complex set of metrics to ensure that this is done in a way that will both save money and prepare the agency for the deployment of the high-tech NextGen system, which will track aircraft by satellite rather than ground-based radios and radar.