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Thu, Feb 07, 2008

Senators Block Sturgell Nomination For FAA Administrator

NJ Lawmakers Upset With Airspace Changes, ATC Woes

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 02.07.08 1440 EST: Two New Jersey Senators have blocked the nomination of Robert Sturgell for the position of FAA Administrator, saying the government has mishandled the contentious issue of flight delays along the East Coast.

The Associated Press reports Democrats Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg used a procedural "hold" to block the nomination, preventing a vote on the issue from reaching the Senate floor.

"It's time for President Bush to nominate an administrator who solves transportation problems, rather than creating more of them," said Lautenberg.

As ANN reported, the government announced in December new limits for takeoffs and landings at New York-area airports, and has redesigned airspace routes over the region... angering many communities, and their lawmakers, over resulting noise issues.

The lawmakers also cited ongoing vitriol between the agency and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and potential safety issues posed by a number of ATC retirements, as more reasons for blocking Sturgell's nomination.

"Mr. Sturgell helped create the policies that left our air traffic controllers overworked and understaffed, our runways in dangerous condition, more air noise on our communities and the worst flight delays in our history," Lautenberg said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Sturgell will remain as the Acting Administrator of the FAA for the next year, though the blocking of his nomination casts doubt on whether efforts to move him into the FAA's top job will proceed.

Original Report

1250 EST: Today's the day that current Acting FAA Administrator Robert A. Sturgell has waited for since October 2007, when President Bush recommended the former Deputy Administrator for the agency's top job.

Below is the unedited text of Sturgell's opening testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Thursday morning.

ANN will continue to update this story throughout the day, as more information becomes available.

Thank you, Chairman Inouye, for the privilege of addressing you, Senator Stevens, and the members of this committee as the nominee for the position of Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Before I begin, it’s my profound pleasure to introduce three very special people — my wife, Lynn, and my parents, Bill and Barbara Sturgell. I’m blessed to have come from wonderful parents and have a loving wife by my side to provide me with such a solid foundation and support. I’m proud to have them here with me today.

Let me say from the outset that I reaffirm the pledge I made when I took my oath of office — to serve my country, to uphold the principles of fairness and righteousness as outlined in the Constitution, and to do my duty to the best of my ability. It is a commitment I renew each and every day at the FAA.

As the steward of the largest, most efficient and most complex airspace system in the world, I will work tirelessly to improve and enhance safety and efficiency in order to serve the millions of people who place their trust in us, who depend on the system for their livelihoods, their goods. Above all, they demand safety, and that is what we deliver.

I am proud to have helped advance that safety record throughout my career. The United States leads the world in setting the highest standards of safety for the aviation industry, and I pledge to keep it that way.

I must be candid: I’ve been asked fairly pointedly by several people on the Hill about why I want to spend five more years at the FAA. The answer is simple. I’m proud to serve with the men and women of the FAA who set and meet the highest standards of excellence.

Following the attacks of 9/11, I sought public service, first with the NTSB, then the FAA. For me, like so many others, it was personal.

At the FAA, I have never sidestepped a hard issue or a tough call. As a result, the FAA has learned to manage better and smarter. We’ve implemented financial management strategies that better serve the taxpayer while maintaining the standard of excellence.

Our capital programs are on track, we’ve had seven clean audits in a row, and we’ve been taken off the GAO’s high-risk list for financial management. In terms of safety and regulatory authority, the FAA is the international gold standard. The men and women of the FAA have made it that way.

As you know, I am working hard to keep things moving. As the entire airline industry has suffered constraints, as passenger demands rise, as our workforce ages, we’ve responded with a massive recruitment and training initiative.

We’ve created retention and job enhancement strategies. The new workforce is being built. We had 1,800 applications in less than a week when a new bid went out for air traffic controllers. But we’re also focusing on our safety inspectors and other critical professions.

We’re addressing those issues that continue to impact travelers. Delays, uncertainty, cancellations — only through the cooperation of all parties involved can we find real solutions. And as you’ve seen by our willingness to work in our most congested corridors, to find and implement solutions, we are beginning to make headway.

System wide, we’ve introduced new technologies ranging from satellites to runway lights, from simulators to the next generation of navigation and safety equipment that will bring the nation’s air space safely into the future.

If confirmed, I will continue working with our stakeholders, my colleagues at the Department of Transportation, and, of course, the Congress, to continuously improve the performance of the FAA and to ensure that our system remains dynamic and future oriented, that new safety innovations are implemented and that the aviation community continues to share in the growing record of safe operations.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to serve this great nation. From my days at Top Gun to my tenure with the airlines and now here before you, I continue to share your pride at what this country stands for.

You have my solemn promise that, if confirmed, I will uphold the best interests of the United States of America and its people at all times. Mr. Chairman, thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions the Committee may have.

FMI: www.faa.gov, http://commerce.senate.gov/public/

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