Dumbing down the safety of Americans to increase the number of minorities is probably one of the most asinine things the Obama administration has done. Yea, I’m feeling really safe when I fly now…NOT!
When a plane starts its final descent, are the passengers more concerned about the competence or about the skin color of the air-traffic controllers on the ground who will help the pilot land safely? The answer may be obvious to readers, if not to the Obama administration.
A recently completed six-month investigation by Fox Business Network found that the Federal Aviation Administration has quietly moved away from merit-based hiring criteria in order to increase the number of women and minorities who staff airport control towers. The changes come despite the fact that the FAA’s own internal reports describe the evidence for changing the hiring process as “weak.”
Until 2013, the FAA gave hiring preference to controller applicants who earned a degree from one of its Collegiate Training Initiative schools and scored high enough on an eight-hour screening test called the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam, or AT-SAT, which measures cognitive skills. The Obama administration, however, determined that the process excluded too many from minority groups. In May 2013, the FAA’s civil rights administrator issued “barrier analyses” of the agency’s employment procedures, which recommended “revising how the AT-SAT is used in establishing best-qualified lists.”
By the start of last year, the FAA was using a biographical questionnaire (BQ) to initially vet potential hires. The questions—“How many sports did you play in high school?”, “What has been the major cause of your failures?”—seem designed to elicit stories of personal disadvantage or family hardship rather than determine success on the job.
“The FAA says it created the BQ to promote diversity among its workforce,” reported Adam Shapiro of Fox Business. “All air traffic control applicants are required to take it. Those who pass are deemed eligible and those who fail are ruled ineligible.”
The FAA would not tell Fox Business what the biographical test is trying to measure and did not return my phone calls. But an FAA report released in October, “Using Biodata to Select Air Traffic Controllers,” concluded that the AT-SAT exam, not the biographical questionnaire, is a much better predictor of performance. “The biodata items assessed did little to improve our ability to select applicants most likely” to complete training successfully, said the study. “If biodata are to be used to select controllers, additional research is required to identify those biodata items that will add to the prediction of controller training performance over and above the effect of AT-SAT score.”
Given that training an air-traffic controller can cost more than $400,000 on average, selecting candidates based on who is likely to complete the process makes economic sense. Hans Bader, a legal scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writes that the FAA’s focus on diversity is not only inefficient but may be a violation of the Civil Rights Act. “The FAA’s jettisoning of merit-based hiring criteria violated the Supreme Court’s Ricci decision, [Ricci v. DeStefano, 2009] which limits agencies’ ability to discard hiring criteria in order to increase minority representation, especially when there is no strong evidence that the criteria are not job-related,” said Mr. Bader.
Read more: WSJ