Testimony of
Mark V. Rosenker, Acting Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
before the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Aviation
U.S. House of Representatives
Reauthorization of the National Transportation Safety Board
March 08, 2006

Good morning, Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Costello, and Members of the Aviation Subcommittee. As Acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, I am pleased to appear before you today in support of our request for reauthorization.

I am very proud of the National Transportation Safety Board. For nearly four decades, the NTSB has been at the forefront of transportation safety issues. The Board enjoys a well-earned reputation as the most effective and authoritative independent safety body in the world. The men and women who make up the NTSB are very simply the "best in the business."

I am delighted to be serving as Acting Chairman of the NTSB at such an important time at the Board. Our critical mission is to investigate transportation accidents to determine what happened and why, so that future accidents can be prevented.

Our job is to work with you to ensure that the Board maintains the technical staff and investigative tools that are needed to confidently and efficiently conduct the thorough and unbiased investigations that the public deserves and Congress has come to expect.

Since our last reauthorization, the Board has held 6 public hearings and 41 Board meetings. We adopted 49 reports at those Board meetings. We have also investigated more than 4,500 aviation accidents, and hundreds of surface transportation accidents. During this time, we published more than 5,000 aviation accident brief reports, 11 major aviation accident reports, 18 highway accident reports, 31 railroad reports, 10 marine reports, 5 pipeline reports, 4 hazardous materials reports, and 7 other studies and special reports. Since the beginning of fiscal year 2003, our laboratories have read out 187 flight data recorders, 203 cockpit voice recorders, and performed 458 wreckage examinations. During this time period, the Board has issued more than 450 safety recommendations.

We have also recently made some significant leadership changes at the Board. In March of 2005, Joe Osterman began serving as the Board's managing director. Mr. Osterman is effectively leading a highly talented management team, and under his leadership, the Safety Board has reinvigorated its focus on the completion of investigations and the production of accident reports.

During the past year, the Board has changed personnel in 14 of the top 24 leadership positions. And we are currently actively recruiting a Chief Information Officer who will join the agency's management team with the responsibility of managing the agency's information infrastructure. We are tightening the performance management system throughout the agency, and have focused our efforts on leadership, communication, and the Board's mission.

The Safety Board is asking for authorized resource levels capable of funding 399 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions in fiscal year 2007, and 475 FTEs in both fiscal years 2008 and 2009. We also have a few other proposals.

The Board's last reauthorization legislation provided the authority for the NTSB to enter into contracts without competition when necessary to expedite an investigation. We are grateful to have been entrusted with this special exemption to competitive contracting rules, and we have judiciously used this authority, mostly for relatively small contracts for investigative services. This important authority expires on September 30, 2006, and we are asking that this sunset provision be deleted so the special contracting authority becomes a permanent part of our legislation.

The Board also asks to be authorized to handle reimbursements in the same manner it currently handles Academy course fees. Occasionally, we are reimbursed by third parties for accident services those parties are required to provide (such as disaster mortuary services), and we sometimes agree to conduct accident investigations on a reimbursable basis. Without a legislative change, these reimbursements, often must be redeposited into the treasury, unavailable for use by the Board. We are asking that we be allowed to treat reimbursements as "no-year money," so that these funds remain available until expended.

The Board also has a proposal that concerns paying for the services of the DOT Inspector General. As you know, the Inspector General is authorized to review the financial management, property management, and business operations of the Board. The IG is reimbursed by the Board for the costs associated with carrying out these activities. We are asking that in lieu of the Board reimbursing the IG, the IG's office should be appropriated directly for these activities. This would facilitate better resource management, and I am pleased to report that the DOT Inspector General concurs with our proposal.

Our last proposal concerns how to authorize appropriations for our training center as part of the broader authorization for the agency, rather than as a separate or distinct entity. We are actively working to more fully integrate the center into our overall mission and programs, and we believe that a single authorization is consistent with this goal. In addition, we propose incorporating the content of the training academy's annual report into the Board's annual report to Congress.

When we were last reauthorized, our training academy in Ashburn, Virginia had not yet opened. Although it has been operational for just over two years, we are pleased that the Academy has made great strides in developing and delivering high quality programs for the transportation community. During fiscal year 2005, we offered 31 programs, 14 of which were designed specifically for NTSB employees. Over 1,600 participants attended these programs, and the Board collected almost half a million dollars from tuitions and fees from the attendees.

Nonetheless, Safety Board management has significantly revised the philosophy for the Academy and has created a plan to develop and sustain programs through partnerships and contracting opportunities that will reduce the demands on NTSB investigative resources. The Academy will rely more heavily on outside instructors, and it will provide greater training opportunities for all NTSB staff. We will also work with and review the operations of other government training facilities to ensure that we benefit from their experience and best practices. One of our goals is to more tightly integrate the Academy into the Safety Board's operation and ongoing work.

As I close, I want to assure you that we are working hard to ensure that the people and resources of the Board are well managed. In fact, I am proud to tell you that in each of the last three fiscal years, our timely and accurate financial statements have received clean audit opinions.

Important things are happening at the Safety Board every day. But we need the continued support of Congress to ensure we continue to achieve our goals. I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.