Eighteen months ago, I asked the RAND Corporation to conduct an independent review of two critical areas of the Safety Board's activities. I asked them to evaluate the Board's employee workload, staffing levels and training - particularly in light of the emerging trends in aviation.
I also asked them to review the party system, how the Board conducts its investigations, and to make recommendations in both areas so that the NTSB can continue to be the world's foremost accident investigation agency.
I wanted the RAND Corporation to reach out to the many stakeholders of the NTSB for their candid input. Rand conducted meetings or listening sessions with industry leaders, past and present NTSB employees and Board Members, government regulators, past and present members of Congress, family members, and the media. I wanted the report to reflect the broadest possible range of thinking on the work of the Safety Board.
On December 7th, President Clinton, speaking about health care, said: "Everyone here agrees that our health care system does wonders but first must do no harm. Ensuring patients' safety is not about fixing blame; it's about fixing problems in an increasingly complex system, about creating a culture of safety and an environment where medical errors are not tolerated. In short, it's about working together to zero in on patient's safety and zero out preventable errors. The report makes clear that a systematic approach to reducing medical errors gives us the best chance of success. Years ago, we took that approach in aviation, and we have dramatically reduced errors and saved lives. By working together, we can achieve the same goals in the health care industry."
As the President indicated in his statement, the structure of our aviation safety system as served our Nation well. However, like all systems, it requires periodic review and revision if it is to be robust enough to continue to be effective. The NTSB, as an integral part of the safety system, has sought, through this study, to ensure that it is prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead to improve the safety of our transportation system.
I will be distributing this report to management and staff of the NTSB so that we can review and evaluate the entire document and its recommendations. We want to study each recommendation carefully and frame our responses accordingly. For over 30 years, the Safety Board has served the interests of the American people well and greatly advanced the safety of our transportation system. I am hopeful that this report can serve as a blueprint that will assist us in meeting the challenges of the future. I believe the most important thing that I can leave the Safety Board after my Chairmanship is a plan that ensures the continued excellence of this agency's important work. I hope this report can serve as a foundation for that plan.
I will be providing this report to the Congress and making it available from our website so that our true stakeholders, the individuals we serve every day as their eyes and ears at accident sites, the American taxpayers, can read the report as well.
If anyone has comments about the report, I would appreciate hearing from them. My address at the Board is:
Chairman Jim Hall
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L'Enfant Plaza East, SW
Washington, DC 20594
RAND study: "Safety in the Skies"