Daniel K. InouyeSenator
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2007 budget demonstrates a startling lack of vision. The nation’s air passenger and cargo traffic is expected to triple over the next 20 years, yet remarkably, the budget does little to prepare for that enormous increase. This Administration has never been particularly adept at planning ahead, and the FAA budget is just the latest example.
In fact, the FAA’s budget proposes nearly $1 billion in cuts to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the grant funding source for capital improvements and safety projects at U.S. airports. In other words, it cuts the resources specifically designated to help our airports accommodate the rapidly growing demand. At the proposed levels, major airports across the country would see a more than one-third reduction in their annual capital funding and small airports would have their funding eliminated.
The Administration contends that this budget supports development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the centerpiece of the FAA’s modernization plan. However, according to the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s analysis, the FAA’s budget will only sustain the current system and will not support the integration of any new technology.
Each one of us is on a plane every week. We speak to the airport directors in our states regularly. We know quite clearly what they are up against, and we experience it first hand. This FAA budget does not even begin to reflect the challenges our system is facing.
Additionally, as we are all aware, the nation’s economic competitiveness has elevated to the top of the Committee’s agenda over the last year. Aviation infrastructure and aerospace research have been key competitive advantages for the U.S. Our aviation system’s safety and efficiency have made it the envy of the world, and our advanced aerospace research has allowed us to stay ahead of our global competitors.
Those advantages are eroding, and we are in real danger of losing our position as the world’s leader in aviation and aerospace. Not only is our air traffic system becoming overcrowded, the controllers who help guide our planes are beginning to retire in large numbers, and we do not, as of yet, have adequate replacements. Similarly, the proposed cuts to aerospace research demonstrate that the FAA is willing to cede our traditional advantage and renowned expertise.
In passing Vision 100, several years back, we provided a blueprint for you to meet future challenges. This budget suggests that you are not following it.
Making matters worse, the FAA has yet to negotiate an agreement with the air traffic controllers. I would like to see the parties resolve this matter voluntarily. Congress should not have to be the final arbiter.
I appreciate that the federal budget is tight, but the President must also understand that the current financial situation is largely a crisis of his own making. Not long ago, we were actively reducing the deficit, while still fulfilling critical obligations that furthered the public good. Now, we are constantly looking for places to cut the budget, often at the expense of projects that are widely recognized as necessary.
We need to build a modern, National Airspace System (NAS) that meets the public’s growing demands, and it will require vision and resources. Since the Administration has yet to provide either, it is up to Congress to deliver both.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Marion BlakeyAdministratorFederal Aviation Administration
Mr. Todd J. ZinserActing Inspector GeneralU.S. Department of Transportation