The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the agency tasked with investigating accidents within the transportation system of the United States of America. The NTSB not only investigates accidents but the agency also makes safety recommendations based on their findings. The agency is an independent body and also participates in studies with the view to improve the transportation industry as a whole. The main objective for any accident investigation is finding the root cause to prevent future accidents. The NTSB is an investigative agency and has a process in place that guides the agency as it conducts investigations. Within this process is a system that allows for the use of third-party sources to assist the agency. The NTSB designates other organizations or corporations as parties to the investigation (The National Transportation Safety Board, 2019).
The volume of accidents and incidents within the U.S. can overwhelm the resources of the NTSB. To leverage its limited resources, the NTSB designates other organizations and external parties to participate in its investigations, creating a much more nimble, intelligent, and dynamic organization (Fielding, Lo, & Yang, 2010). This seems like a conflict of interest as it may allow a manufacturer to present only the data that shows the aircraft or component under investigation in a more favorable light. There seems to be an advantage in the level of expertise offered which may lead to the root cause of the accident quicker. Only those organizations or corporations that can provide expertise to the investigation are granted party status and only those persons who can provide the Board with needed technical or specialized expertise are permitted to serve on the investigation; persons in legal or litigation positions are not allowed to be assigned to the investigation (The National Transportation Safety Board, 2019). Any government entity involved in oversight or regulation of an industry can be mislead in investigation proceedings by an organization seeking to protect their proprietary intellectual property. In almost every case, it turns to the manufacturer of the aircraft component that failed or malfunctioned (Danko, 2009). This may be great for gathering engineering data or additional insight but there are many experts and analyst within the aviation community that can provide the same or even higher levels of expertise. The NTSB has recognized the conflict of interest inherent in its "party system" but, unfortunately for victims and their families, continues the practice in just about all of its investigations (Danko, 2009).
The party system, while from a high-level view, seems to be a system that can be beneficial to an accident investigation and may lead to greater more efficient root cause analysis. In a more detailed view point this system seems vulnerable and open to corruption. The Securities and Exchange Commission, another government oversight agency, has suffered from embarrassing events from its investigation into Wall Street incidents, more recently its failure in the Bernie Madoff scandal. This agency also works closely with the very banks and firms that it has charge over. If this agency has suffered from its partnering policies then the NTSB can also be susceptible to inefficiencies within its party system.
Danko, M. (2009, May 5). AVIATION Law Monitor. Retrieved from AVIATION Law Monitor Web site: https://www.aviationlawmonitor.com/2009/05/articles/ntsb/the-conflict-of-interest-builtin-to-the-ntsbs-party-system/
Fielding, E., Lo, A. W., & Yang, J. H. (2010). The National Transportation Safety Board: A Model for Systemic Risk Management. Boston: MIT SLOAN.
The National Transportation Safety Board. (2019, March 28). The National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved from The National Transportation Safety Board Web site: https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/process/pages/default.aspx