Administrator Says "I Have Not Had The Luxury" Of Leading An
Agency With Comprehensive Authorization
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt testified Tuesday before a
subcommittee of the House Transportation committee, as the long FAA
reauthorization process began once again.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt
Leaders in both the House and the Senate have said that getting
an FAA reauthorization passed is a priority for this Congress, and
Babbitt did nothing to disabuse them of that notion. "During
my tenure as Administrator, I have not had the luxury of guiding
the agency under a comprehensive, long term authorization," Babbitt
said in prepared remarks before the legislators. "But I want to
assure the Subcommittee that the agency has not been idle while
awaiting passage of comprehensive authorization. This is a
dynamic time in an extremely dynamic industry. NextGen will
transform the way we fly and do business. It will move us
from radar to satellite, from radio to data communications, from
traditional airways to streamlined routes. Knowing what the
future holds, it is imperative that we transform our national
aviation system and the FAA over the next 15 years. Our goal is to
work closely with industry to implement new technologies and
procedures that are sustainable and to work with our international
partners to establish uniform standards around the globe."
Babbitt said the agency has moved forward even under the long
string of continuing resolutions which have kept the agency funded
over the past five years, such as the initial deployment of ADS-B
which will form part of the basis for NextGen. "As it happens, this
dynamic period in aviation coincides with a time of great economic
challenges," Babbitt said. "That is why I feel very passionately
that the FAA must demonstrate the strong business case for our
major initiatives, and there is no greater example than NextGen. We
need to demonstrate the operational and fiscal benefits to
encourage widespread participation."
Full committee chair John Mica (R-FL) re-stated the importance
of a long-term funding bill for the FAA. "An FAA bill is a top
priority of the Committee," Mica said. "We are developing a lean,
streamlined, long-term bill that does more with less and continues
to ensure the safety of our skies. I am pleased the Senate has
already begun action on an FAA bill, and our goal is to have a
final bill on the President’s desk as soon as possible.
"The FAA is now operating under the 17th short-term extension of
the last long-term law, which expired in 2007. Aviation represents
a substantial percentage of our GDP, and to not have updated,
reformed policies and projects in place is unacceptable."
Subcommittee chair Tom Petri (R-WI) stated that the bill has
long-range economic implications. "It goes without saying that the
aviation industry is vital to the U.S. economy, contributing 1.2
trillion dollars annually to the economy, and directly or
indirectly generates over 10 million jobs. It is important that
this industry’s stability and growth continue," Petri said.
"In addition, it is critical that we ensure that NextGen is
delivered on time and on budget. NextGen is vital to the U.S.
aviation increasing efficiency and lowering cost."
Over in the Senate, Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is
working to marshal his own party's amendments to the bill to
determine which will be allowed to be voted on in that body.