HFES Advocates for Human Factors in FAA Reauthorization Legislation

By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC  |  April 7, 2016

On March 8, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation introduced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016. The legislation would set policy and directives for FAA through fiscal year (FY) 2017 and includes significant HFES-advocated language related to human factors. Notably, the bill includes a provision that would codify a definition of human factors into law – an ongoing priority for Lewis-Burke and HFES.

In 2013, the HFES Government Relations Committee and Lewis-Burke created an internal FAA Working Group to collaborate on policy ideas and analyze previous FAA authorization legislation. Based on interactions with officials at FAA, congressional staff, and the Society's knowledge of human factors–related aviation issues, HFES developed several policy recommendations for inclusion in future authorization legislation. Chief among these recommendations was the provision mandating the FAA to establish a singular definition of human factors, which the FAA would apply in all future activities involving human factors considerations.

These efforts culminated with a meeting between Lewis-Burke and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee staff responsible for writing the reauthorization legislation. Through this meeting and continued communications, HFES was able to successfully advocate for the inclusion of the comprehensive definition of human factors and influence human factors–related policies in other areas of the legislation.

The current FAA authorization was originally set to expire at the end of FY 2015. Since then, Congress has passed short-term extensions allowing time for the House and Senate to consider different philosophical approaches to how the FAA should operate in the future – an example being a controversial proposal in the House to privatize the air traffic control system. Because of this and other issues, House leaders chose to redraft their legislation, necessitating at least another extension of the current authorization.

Given the bipartisan nature of the Senate bill, its chances of passing the chamber and ultimately having significant portions included in a compromise with the House remain very high. Lewis-Burke and the HFES Government Relations Subcommittee on Aviation will continue to advocate for inclusion of the human factors definition in the final compromise legislation.

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a leading Washington, D.C.-based government relations and consulting firm, represents the public policy interests of scientific societies and institutions of higher education. Lewis-Burke's staff of about 20 government relations professionals work to promote the federal research and policy goals of HFES and the HF/E community.