Editorial Printed In "Politico" Makes Case For Multi-Year
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator
Randy Babbitt targeted their argument for long-term funding for the
FAA to a politically-savvy audience this week with an editorial
published in 'The Politico', and then forwarded to ANN by the DOT.
That editorial is re-created here in its entirety.
The United States is facing a pivotal time in aviation history.
We are charting the transformation of our air traffic control
system - from the ground-based radar system of the past century to
the satellite-based system of tomorrow. We want to make certain our
aviation system remains the safest in the world. But to accomplish
our goals, the Federal Aviation Administration needs a multiyear
Reauthorization would allow us to help airports move forward
with important safety improvements, which have been put on hold
because of uncertainty about long-term funding. For example, we
could help airports finance special runway safety areas made of
soft, crushable concrete that can keep passengers safe if an
aircraft overshoots the runway. This prevented what could have been
a serious accident in West Virginia last year. The material stopped
the plane and all passengers exited safely.
It's difficult to manage large-scale, long-term programs when
there's only enough money to pour 50 feet of concrete at a time.
And it costs a lot more that way - meaning we get less bang for the
buck. The FAA has not had a steady source of funding for three and
a half years, relying instead on 18 short-term extensions. Some
kept the agency running only a few weeks. Debates over aspects of
the FAA's reauthorization bill have led to a political impasse. Now
its authority to operate is set to expire at the end of May.
With a multiyear reauthorization, airports could make better
plans to resurface runways and avoid crumbling pavement. They could
better maintain proper signs and lighting, build safer taxiways and
acquire equipment to prevent snow and ice buildup on runways.
Aviation is an economic engine for America. It adds $1.3
trillion to our economy. It accounts for more than 11.5 million
jobs and $396 billion in wages. These are good jobs that Americans
have the skills to achieve. The FAA forecasts significant growth in
aviation over the next two decades, as the number of passengers on
U.S. airlines increases by about 75 percent from today's levels. In
the next 10 years, we expect to reach the milestone of 1 billion
passengers annually. We are in the middle of an ambitious effort to
transform the nation's aviation system to meet the needs of the
future. We have to do the long-term planning to accommodate this
growth - and build the infrastructure to handle the Next Generation
air traffic system.
The future of aviation is NextGen. Travelers will see fewer
delays. Aircraft will burn less fuel, and air travel will be
friendlier to the environment. NextGen is the transformational
technology that will take us from radar scopes to GPS-based
navigation. It's the switch from 1950s-era computer systems to
Internet-based networks. It's like the upgrade from a
black-and-white TV with rabbit ears to an HDTV.
Delaying infrastructure investments, both on the ground and in
NextGen technology, means that the long-term cost to our nation -
to our passengers and our environment - could far exceed the cost
of going forward today. While the FAA has, unfortunately, made
headlines recently because of a few air traffic controllers who
behaved unprofessionally, we have tens of thousands of dedicated
employees who work tirelessly to improve our air traffic system. We
are making the necessary safety changes so that we give the best
performance day in and day out. We are moving forward, and we need
Both the House and the Senate have passed FAA reauthorization
bills. However, the funding levels in the House bill are well below
what President Barack Obama proposed in his budget. Funding at
these levels would degrade the safe and efficient movement of air
traffic today and in the future. The safety improvements we need
would be that much harder to make.
Since the start of commercial aviation, the United States has
been ahead of the world in both safety and breadth. We should not
fall behind now.