Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Transportation Democrats Reject Trump Plan to Privatize Public Airspace, Offer Targeted Solutions to Improve FAA

Jun 7, 2017
Press Release

Transportation Democrats Reject Trump Plan to Privatize Public Airspace, Offer Targeted Solutions to Improve FAA

Washington, D.C. – Today, Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure rejected President Trump’s plan to privatize our public airspace, and instead introduced, H.R. 2800, The Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2017, legislation to strengthen and reform the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its air traffic control (ATC) system. The legislation, sponsored by Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and cosponsored by Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA) and every other Democrat on the Committee, will provide stable, predictable funding for aviation programs and reform the FAA’s procurement and ATC modernization efforts without giving away our aviation infrastructure to special interests.

“On Monday, President Trump kicked off his so-called ‘Infrastructure Week’ by releasing a plan that will hand over our public airspace to a private corporation— jeopardizing the safety and security of our aviation system. Under his plan, the same U.S. airlines that squeeze every nickel and dime from customers will have the power to tax the public and general aviation users to pay for the maintenance of our ATC system, without Congressional oversight or judicial review. President Trump’s plan also gives the private corporation the power to set and adjust air routes, jeopardizing small community and rural access to the skies, and leaving the American public with little to no recourse when aircraft noise problems arise. The plan puts the power to manage ATC technology upgrades in the hands of a board likely dominated by the airlines and their allies, despite the fact that airlines have a poor track record with technology and have experienced at least 36 major computer system failures in the last three years.

“If we truly want to fix the real problems facing the FAA today, the solution is simple: Congress can and should pass targeted reforms. Today, Democrats on the Transportation Committee offered targeted measures that guarantee that investments in our aviation system are not subject to Congressional dysfunction. Our alternative provides a stable, predictable funding stream for aviation programs; directs the FAA to run modernization programs using streamlined best practices; requires FAA to reform its personnel system; gives users a bigger role in managing the aviation system through the FAA’s Management Advisory Council; and authorizes funding to rebuild and modernize aging air traffic control facilities. Targeted reforms can achieve our common objectives without jeopardizing our Nation’s outstanding aviation safety record. I urge my Republican colleagues to reject ATC privatization, and support our proposal for real, achievable modernization and reform,” said DeFazio.

“This bill meaningfully complements NextGen’s progress,” said Larsen, the top-Ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee. “By providing certainty to the FAA’s funding streams and boosting reforms to the FAA’s personnel and procurement systems this bill presents an opportunity to accelerate modernization of the FAA, which is something I think folks on both sides of the aisle can get behind.”

BACKGROUND

Earlier this week, President Trump announced a plan that would privatize ATC, leave the FAA’s critical safety oversight processes without a funding source, and jeopardize aviation safety by subjecting the remaining FAA to Congressional shutdowns, budget cuts, and sequestration. Under the Trump plan, a private corporation would have the power to tax the flying public to pay for the ATC system without Congressional oversight or judicial review. The Trump plan severely limits current public participation requirements regarding aircraft noise when adjusting airspace routes over homes across the United States.

The Trump plan requires the FAA to transfer to the new Corporation all ATC assets—worth billions of dollars—free of charge. According to the Trump administration’s own estimates, the ATC privatization plan will increase the Federal budget deficit by $46 billion.

The Democratic alternative introduced today includes targeted measures that would ensure that investments in our aviation system are not subject to Congressional dysfunction and would streamline the acquisition of NextGen technology, equipment certification, and ATC management to improve the system.

SUMMARY OF H.R. 2800-- THE AVIATION FUNDING STABILITY ACT of 2017 [fact sheet available here]

  • The bill provides a stable, predictable funding stream for aviation programs by taking the Airport and Airway Trust Fund off budget, and it institutes Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) procurement and personnel reform.

 

  • The bill takes the Airport and Airway Trust Fund off budget and ensures that the revenues collected from flying passengers (e.g., ticket taxes) are invested in the aviation system. Beginning October 1, all Trust Fund revenues and the Trust Fund’s uncommitted cash balance are immediately available to be invested in the aviation system. These funds are not subject to appropriation, budget sequestration, or any directive of the Office of Management and Budget – the funds are off budget. In addition, the bill authorizes such sums as necessary from the General Fund for FAA Operations to address any possible shortfall in Trust Fund revenues, and it exempts any General Fund share from sequestration.

 

  • The bill requires top-to-bottom reforms of the FAA’s personnel and procurement systems. In 1995 and 1996, Congress exempted the FAA from government-wide personnel and procurement rules. But the Department of Transportation Inspector General has often reported that the FAA has not taken full advantage of these reforms, leading to delays and cost overruns in modernization programs and low workforce productivity. The bill requires the FAA to develop a streamlined procurement system that is up to the task of governing high-tech, high-value acquisitions in NextGen technology. It also requires the FAA to update its personnel management system to provide incentives for good performance, among other things. With these reforms, the FAA will be able to institute personnel and procurement reform.

 

  • The bill elevates the role of the FAA Management Advisory Council (MAC), a government-industry panel that advises the FAA Administrator on strategic issues facing the FAA. The bill requires the Administrator to respond in writing to each recommendation of the MAC with respect to management of the air traffic control system within 90 days of receipt. If the Administrator disagrees with the recommendation, the Administrator must explain his or her rationale. If the Administrator agrees with the recommendation, the Administrator’s response must include a timeline for implementation.

 

  • The bill removes bureaucratic barriers within the FAA. The bill requires the FAA to take a modern, 21st-century approach to tapping into the potential of its workforce. The bill directs the agency to cross-utilize staff across disciplines wherever feasible and to break down internal silos so that employees can freely share ideas, and so that offices can better collaborate and coordinate with one another in managing complex tasks like certifying new airliner designs and running the air traffic control system.

 

  • The bill authorizes funds to rebuild and modernize aging air traffic control facilities across the United States. The bill authorizes the FAA to use the uncommitted balance of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to rebuild, modernize, and sustain air traffic control facilities.

 

--30--

Bill text: H.R. 2800 Aviation Funding Stability Act

Fact Sheet: H.R. 2800 Aviation Funding Stability Act

Fact Sheet: Trump Administration Plan