Good morning, and thank you for
coming. I think there’s little doubt that aviation is indeed
at a critical juncture. It’s stretched to the max. We all
know that our technology needs to be upgraded. And we all agree
that the Next Generation Air Transportation System, NextGen, is the
way to go.
We’ve spent the last couple years standing up the JPDO,
our interagency Joint Planning and Development Office, and
developing the vision for our NextGen system. Many of you have seen
the documents that were released over the last few weeks —
the Concept of Operations and Enterprise Architecture.
We now are moving into the implementation phase of this complex
project. All the participating agencies, especially FAA, need to
put the resources and structure in place to deliver on our piece of
the NextGen system.
And that’s precisely the direction we’re headed in.
At the FAA, there’s nothing more important than NextGen,
whether it’s reforming our financing structure, moving
forward on major programs like ADS-B or demonstrating ways to
create a safer, cleanersystem the NextGen ensures. The only
question — how are we going to make all this happen in a
coordinated, integrated way?
Today, I’m announcing some significant changes inside the
FAA to meet the needs of NextGen. You all know the old Operational
Evolution Plan, the OEP. It’s been the key to achieving
capacity and efficiency gains, like the commissioning of 13 new
runways since fiscal 2000. So, building on this success, we have
expanded the OEP and renamed it to become the Operational Evolution
Partnership so that it can include the entire NextGen effort at the
That’s not all. With the expansion of the OEP, and the
challenges that will present, we recognize the need to strengthen
the OEP. Strong leadership will be key, so we’re creating a
new senior executive position to lead this Partnership and that
executive will report directly to the chief operating officer of
our Air Traffic Organization. The OEP executive will be responsible
for driving the implementation of NextGen at the FAA, ensuring that
things are fully integrated. The search for that key executive
begins today, so I welcome your suggestions.
But we’re not standing still as we search to find the
right person for this position. We already have Version 1 of the
expanded OEP up on our website and we have here today copies of its
Executive Overview. OEP is off and running, now we just need to
find the right person to help all of us — including industry
— deliver on it.
It’s going to take all of us pulling in the same direction
to make this all work. I’m glad that the JPDO Institute has
just announced its new Executive Director. I’d like to
welcome Charlie Bergman. He has a lifelong career in aviation since
graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. Charlie has
worked at the Pentagon, the Air Line Pilots Association and has
4,200 hours in the cockpit. He knows the system.
In his new position, he’s
going to team up with Charlie Leader to ensure a robust private
sector input into all that the JPDO does. And, he’ll have Jim
[May] and Phil [Boyer] on speed dial because they’ll be
involved in every aspect of this endeavor as well.
I know his hiring is yet another clear signal that we’re
taking the implementation of NextGen very, very seriously. And, I
suppose that in a broad manner of speaking, today’s gathering
is designed to make sure everyone here has the latest information
and tools to understand the complexity and the timing of the
NextGen issue. Why we’re doing what we’re doing, and
what needs to happen to make it happen.
Too often, people think that if we ignore the bumps in our
aviation system, that they’ll somehow just go away. The
system recovered from 9/11 and now passenger numbers are setting
records. Look at the airlines. We’re no longer talking about
bankruptcy, we’re talking about being in the black.
But there is no rebound or a recovery available for the system
today. Make no mistake, this is a steady slide toward gridlock.
Last summer’s delays are going to be like the good old days
when the dog days roll in for 2007. But still, when you’re
talking about a system of the future, well, it’s easy to
think that you can take care of it tomorrow.
If we wait for tomorrow, we’re toast. You can call it
critical mass. You can call it gridlock. But whatever you call it,
we all know that the problem is upon us. This is not a situation
that’s going to happen in 2025. It’s here. It’s
NextGen will do more than answer the mail. NextGen will enable
us to meet not just capacity needs that will come our way, but it
will enhance safety as well and provide a much greener,
environmentally friendly system to boot.
In closing, though, please keep in mind that the problem I
mentioned a moment ago is really only half the challenge. We know
what we need and how to fix it. The next question is how do we pay
for it? We’ve put forward a comprehensive proposal to fund
NextGen and are working with Congress to get new legislation
enacted. If we’re unable to have a financing reform bill in
place by September 30 when the current set of taxes expire, the
delays and the missed connections and the headlines are only going
to get worse -- much worse. Without a reliable funding stream, the
NextGen program will start to slow down, and when the bow wave of
delays hits, it’ll be too late.
If you walk away from today with only one thought, let it be
this: There are 81 days until September 30. Let’s get