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,"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.