House Republicans took action this week to reverse an Obama administration policy that critics claim prioritizes diversity over skills for hiring air traffic controllers and could be “risking passengers’ lives to advance their woke agenda.”
In passing the $4 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill Thursday, the House included a provision to eliminate the “biographical assessment.” Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, sponsored the amendment.
The assessment reportedly gives more points to applicants who have not been employed for the last three years than to an applicant who answers that he has been a pilot or a veteran with an air traffic control-related military background.
“The FAA’s biographical assessment penalizes air traffic controller candidates who demonstrate a high aptitude in science. It’s insane,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., chairman of the House Anti-Woke Caucus, told The Daily Signal.
In 2013, the FAA scrapped a skills-based test and a certification program, and replaced it with a biographical questionnaire to attract more diverse applicants to become air traffic controllers. The FAA previously drew most candidates from the military and a group of 36 colleges that include air traffic control colleges.
“When Americans board a plane, they should be confident that the best pilot is flying it, the best engineers built it, and the best air traffic controllers are managing flight traffic,” Banks continued. “Unfortunately, the far Left is so radical they’re risking passengers’ lives to advance their woke agenda. I’d like to thank Rep. Babin for leading this potentially lifesaving and commonsense effort to restore meritocracy at the FAA.”
“Under this administration, we’ve repeatedly seen diversity and inclusion prioritized over competence and ability,” Babin told The Daily Signal in a statement. “This amendment ensures we hire the best, most qualified candidates at the FAA—based on merit instead of skin color. We cannot allow the Left’s political games to endanger American air crews and passengers.”
The FAA funding legislation passed on a bipartisan vote with 351 members backing it. It now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate.
An FAA spokesperson did not reply to requests for comment for this story.
The FAA and airlines have faced criticism in recent months amid what critics call an aviation crisis with canceled flights and long delays at airports.
Critics have faulted the controversial hiring policy for the past several years, saying it potentially poses a danger to passengers.
In 2019, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a legal nonprofit, filed a class-action lawsuit against the FAA on behalf of 2,500 aspiring air traffic controllers who claimed to be harmed by the policy change.
In 2018, then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson did a segment on the Obama-era diversity policy.
“Applicants who had been unemployed for the previous three years got more points than licensed pilots got. In other words, the FAA actively searched for unqualified air traffic controllers,” Carlson said. “That is insane. And they knew it was insane when they did it, but they did it anyway.”
In 2016, the FAA Office of Inspector General found that the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, which lobbied for the biographical assessment, assisted applicants in cheating on the exam by feeding certain questions and answers, the Daily Caller reported.
Prior to the Obama policy, the FAA previously worked with 36 colleges to create the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative, which offered two- and four-year non-engineering aviation degrees. The FAA also gave hiring preferences to veterans, those with program degrees, references from administrators, and high test scores.
In 2013, Obama-appointed FAA Administrator Michael Huerta determined that then-current hiring standards failed to produce enough women and minority candidates in the applicant pool.
Huerta announced that he would “transform the [FAA] into a more diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects, understands, and relates to the diverse customers we serve.”
The FAA also discarded its longtime assessment test and implemented a take-home personality test it called a biographical questionnaire.
Among the questions asked are: “The number of high school sports I participated in was … ” “How would you describe your ideal job?” “What has been the major cause of your failures?” “More classmates would remember me as humble or dominant?”
In a 2018 column, Walter Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University until his death in 2020, criticized the policy.
“In other words, the FAA opened air traffic control training to ‘off-the-street hires’—any English-speaking citizen with a high school diploma—despite the fact that most high school diplomas are fraudulent documents,” Williams wrote. “All air traffic control applicants are required to complete the biographical questionnaire. Those who ‘pass’ are deemed eligible.”
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.