The hearing will focus on the Senate FAA reauthorization bill.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Marion BlakeyAdministratorFederal Aviation Administration
STATEMENT OF MARION C. BLAKEY ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION ON REAUTHORIZATION OF FAA PROGRAMS APRIL 10, 2003 Chairman McCain, Senator Hollings, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Administration’s proposal to reauthorize our aviation programs. Recently, I testified before you on the state of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The question I was most frequently asked at that hearing was when the Administration’s reauthorization proposal would be made available. I am happy to report that on March 25, 2003, Secretary Mineta sent to Congress the Administration’s reauthorization proposal, the Centennial of Flight Aviation Authorization Act, or Flight-100. I would very much like to thank both Secretary Mineta and Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson for their tireless efforts in developing and clearing this proposal. I would also like to thank them for challenging all of us at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to be Safer, Simpler, and Smarter. These three principles developed by the Secretary not only form the basis of Flight-100, but they also describe a Department that puts a premium on performance, flexibility, and accountability. And we at FAA intend to do our part to meet the Secretary’s challenge. I am also grateful for the dedication and input of Under Secretary Jeff Shane and his Policy office since, when my tenure as Administrator began, the development of a reauthorization proposal was already under way. To that end, we believe the Administration’s proposal will serve as a strong foundation for the development of reauthorization legislation. When the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) was passed almost three years ago, it contained some truly innovative provisions that improved safety, airport development and system efficiency. It was landmark legislation that has provided a firm foundation upon which to build. The Administration’s reauthorization proposal does just that -- it takes its direction from AIR-21 and proposes a four-year authorization that would continue investment in safety, air traffic control modernization and operations, airport capacity improvements, and environmental stewardship. With AIR-21 as a foundation, let me take a moment to describe for you the substance of our proposal. Funding Levels Because safety remains our number one priority, continued investment in the aviation system is critical. Although the devastating events of September 11th continue to impact the number of people flying in this country, recovery of the system is inevitable. As I discussed with you when I last testified before this Committee, the temporary downturn in air travel affords us a great opportunity to continue to focus on increasing airport capacity without unacceptable disruption to the system. Under AIR-21, the annual authorized levels for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) increased substantially, and FAA’s other accounts also received appreciable increases. The funding levels the Administration recommends for AIP, Facilities and Equipment (F&E), and FAA Operations will support the achievement of several goals. They maintain the level of investment for major airport capacity projects that provide great benefits to the National Airspace System (NAS). They enable us to continue to update the NAS infrastructure, expand air traffic control automation and communications tools, and implement needed operational capability and risk-mitigating precision landing navigation. They support implementation of FAA’s Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) and efforts to accelerate airspace redesign, sector reconfiguration, and chokepoint solutions. Although the proposed funding level for Research, Engineering and Development represents a decrease from current levels as a result of the transfer of security technology responsibilities to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Flight-100 reflects our continued focus on safety in FAA’s research program. FAA also benefits from a significant amount of forward-looking research funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that is aimed at improving the long-term safety, security, and efficiency of the national airspace. I believe these funding recommendations are sound and represent a strong signal that investment in safety and in the NAS is critical to a healthy economy and the future of the country. Programmatic Changes With respect to the AIP, Flight-100 places major emphasis on helping smaller airports and projects of national significance. Therefore, the Administration proposes a restructuring of the formulas and set-asides to allow more funds to be targeted to those airports and projects with the greatest dependence on Federal assistance. In fiscal year 2004, our proposal would transfer more funding than in fiscal year 2003 to small airports. These airports are essential to the vitality of the NAS and have limited funding options other than Federal assistance. We estimate this funding shift to be approximately $87 million. We also recommend simplifying the grant formulas by eliminating unnecessary or outdated set-asides. For example, the set-aside for the Military Airport Program was created to ensure funding when it was a new concept and it was unclear if it would compete well for grant dollars. Today, the program is well established and its airports routinely receive more than the amount guaranteed by the existing formulas. The changes we propose will have the effect of increasing the amount of discretionary funding available, which we believe is essential to help fund the key capacity projects in our national system that we all agree are necessary to prevent future gridlock. Just as the Committee leadership has identified environmental concerns as a priority in their reauthorization proposal, the Administration’s environmental concerns are cornerstone of Flight-100. While FAA’s primary mission is to ensure a safe and efficient NAS, we also take our environmental responsibilities quite seriously. The environmental initiatives in this proposal will contribute to continued success of our investment in safety and capacity projects by providing for prompt and more effective environmental review of significant projects while continuing to exercise strong environmental stewardship. I know that environmental streamlining is a top priority for this Committee and I look forward to working with you to meet our mutual goal. We also propose new initiatives to mitigate the impacts of aviation emissions and noise. For example, we propose to establish voluntary programs to reduce aviation emissions by converting airport infrastructure, airport vehicles, and airport-owned ground-support equipment to new low emission technologies. In addition, our noise initiatives include using some of the AIP noise set-aside for research aimed at reducing community exposure to aircraft noise or emissions. We also hope to increase prospective homebuyers’ awareness of areas near airports that are exposed to aircraft noise by requiring federal lenders to inform prospective homebuyers of properties within airport noise contours. The aviation insurance program authority in chapter 443 of title 49 is scheduled to expire at the end of 2003. In the past, reauthorizations of the program were enacted periodically and, if the program lapsed between authorizations, the lapses were brief and without incident. In the current climate, however, a lapse in the defense and foreign commerce related program could have extreme consequences. To avoid that future possibility, Flight-100 would repeal the periodic renewal requirement of that portion of the program, thereby making it permanent. The provisions that enable DOT to offer insurance to airlines flying within the United States would be extended for a two-year period and would be subject to the reauthorization process at that time. Of course, the actual provision of insurance will remain at the discretion of the President, based on a Presidential Determination Order. Our proposal sets forth certain structural reforms that could assist agency efforts to transform air traffic control and its supporting functions into an effective, performance-based Air Traffic Organization. The structural reform provisions in our reauthorization proposal would reinforce this goal by clarifying and enhancing management reforms that Congress has already put in place for the FAA. Increasing FAA’s International Profile Recently, I made a commitment to you, the agency, and the aviation community that I would work to increase the FAA’s international profile. We all have an obligation to continue to look for innovative ways to use our resources to improve worldwide aviation safety while maintaining our leadership role in the international aviation community. Toward that end, I recently created a separate International Office. Mr. Chairman, although FAA faces numerous international challenges over the next five years, I am confident that we will succeed in increasing our leadership role. Defenders of the Homeland Finally, for over a year and half Congress, and particularly this Committee, has appropriately focused on security matters. At this time, I would like to note that the shift of FAA’s former security programs to the TSA was a smooth one. FAA continues to work closely with TSA even as TSA has transitioned from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security. Although FAA’s role with respect to security has changed, we remain defenders of the Homeland in a very real sense. Security remains a vital component of safety. The current threat level means we all have a role to play in protecting our country. On behalf of the FAA, I am committed to continuing to work closely with TSA to protect our country from having aviation used against us as a weapon of mass destruction. Conclusion In conclusion, I believe that the Administration’s proposal will serve as a strong foundation for aviation reauthorization and I look forward to working with this Committee and industry stakeholders towards the development of legislation. This concludes my prepared statement. I am happy to answer your questions at this time.
Ms. Read Van de Water
STATEMENT OF READ C. VAN DE WATER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR AVIATION AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION before the SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION on FLIGHT-100, Small Community Transportation Service April 10, 2003 Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss more fully the Administration’s Flight-100 reauthorization proposal for small community transportation service. My experience involving what is now the Essential Air Service Program has reinforced for me the absolute need to reform how the government supports small community transportation. Without fundamental changes to the way in which the Federal Government addresses these transportation issues, communities will have little, if any, control over the service that is provided – the service in many cases may only be partially responsive to the community needs. Moreover, there is no doubt that it will be increasingly more expensive for the government to support those services. Even before September 11, which affected air service throughout the country, including smaller communities, the costs under the EAS program had grown substantially, but use of the services was generally poor. Since September 11, we have received 44 notices by carriers to terminate the last service at a community, most of them triggering first-time EAS subsidy. In Flight-100, the Administration has proposed a comprehensive new program for small community transportation service that changes both the dynamics and the participants in the process. The key substantive reforms in the program go to the heart of what has been recognized as a significant omission in how we address small community transportation-- participation by the communities involved. Under our proposal, communities will: Participate directly in developing a plan for responding to their transportation needs. Throughout the history of the Essential Air Service program, the Federal Government has determined what service the community would receive. Under our proposed reforms for small community transportation service, communities will have a leadership role in designing the transportation service that will best meet their individual community’s needs. Communities themselves are in the best position to know their needs and their ability to support the services to meet those needs. By participating in the design of the services provided, the community and the government can help ensure more effective decisions on how best to address the community’s needs. Our experience with the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program has confirmed the strong desire of communities to be active participants in this process. The GAO report on small community service also emphasized that service initiatives were most successful where the communities had active participation in the solutions and were committed to those solutions. Have flexibility in meeting transportation needs. Traditionally, under the EAS program there has been a “one size fits all” service plan. In the early stages of the EAS program, that system actually worked well and, more often than not, was responsive to the needs of most small communities. As a result of the growth and evolution of air service since then, including expanded hub-and-spoke systems, the more recent growth of low-fare carrier services, and changes in regional air carrier services, this model is no longer a universal template. Our proposal provides communities a broader range of options available to address their air service needs, including less frequent or charter type service, use of smaller aircraft better matched to the actual demand for service, ground service alternatives, and regional service initiatives where several communities could be served through one airport, but with larger aircraft or more frequent flights. Again, our experience with the Pilot Program has been very instructive. Many communities recognize that their needs have changed and that a broader range of options may be the difference between successful service and service that is rarely used. Greater flexibility will make it possible for communities and the government to respond more effectively and efficiently with the service that the community needs. Participate financially in the service plan. We believe that services at small communities will be more effective if the community is a full partner with the government. In addition to participating in the design of the service provided, this also involves support for that service--support not only in ridership, but also financially. As a stakeholder in the transportation, the community gains greater control over how the service is provided and its potential for success. The amount of community contribution would be determined by the degree of isolation. Our proposal calls for a sliding scale for financial contributions to the service with the most remote communities contributing at a lower level and the least isolated contributing at a higher level. While this has been the most criticized aspect of the proposal, the Pilot Program has shown that communities are able and willing to participate financially in their transportation services. In last year’s grant process, over 70 percent of the communities were prepared to contribute at least 10 percent of the cost of the proposed initiative. Nearly half were prepared to contribute at least 25 percent. I want to emphasize that we recognize that there are certain circumstances under which a community might not be required to make a financial contribution due to special geographical considerations, and we would be prepared to consider those on a case-by-case basis. Under this new program: · All communities that are now under the EAS program would be eligible for financial assistance for their transportation services, provided that they contribute toward the cost of the service. · Those communities will have the opportunity to enhance their service with more frequency or larger equipment (air or surface) with an additional financial contribution. They may also seek additional financial assistance for other components of their air service plan, such as marketing and other promotional initiatives. · Communities close to jet service (within 100 highway miles of a large or medium hub, 75 from a small hub, or 50 from a non-hub with jet service) would be eligible for surface transportation only, splitting the cost of the service with the Federal government--50/50. · Communities more than 210 miles from the nearest large or medium hub are eligible for any type of air or ground service, with a contribution of at least 10 percent of the cost of the service. · All other communities are eligible for any type of air or ground service, with a contribution of at least 25 percent of the cost of the service. · Small communities (small hubs and smaller) not encompassed by the existing EAS program may also seek financial assistance to facilitate their transportation needs, provided that they make a financial contribution of at least 25 percent. These changes will require communities to rethink carefully their air transportation needs, as well as the most effective ways of meeting those needs; doing so in some cases will also require making some very tough and unpopular decisions. I also believe that under the new program more participation at the state level will be necessary to assess the services throughout the state in conjunction with other transportation initiatives to ensure a coordinated, effective approach to addressing the state’s transportation requirements. I am confident that the reforms proposed by the Administration will better serve small communities, providing them with greater participation, flexibility, and control in tailoring service to their individual needs, and will more effectively direct Federal funds to where they are needed most. In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to small community transportation. With this proposal, the Administration has taken a necessary and important step to develop a more responsive and efficient system of transportation for smaller communities. We look forward to working with you and members of this committee toward accomplishing these objectives. Thank you again for inviting me today to this hearing. This concludes my prepared statement. I will be happy to answer any of your questions.