Rich Efford, Aerospace Industries of America’s (AIA) Assistant Vice President for Legislative Affairs, recently uttered one of the defense industry’s most hated words, “SEQUESTRATION”, in the context of civil aviation at a House hearing on contract towers. Sequestration was created as an expletive in the 2011 Budget Control Act; if Congress is unable to make the spending reduction mandated in that Act, the Sword of Damocles falls on the Defense Department budget. Mr. Efford, who was The House of Representatives’ staff expert on budget issues, made the case that Sequestration could mean a reduction of $1 billion for the FAA’s NextGen.
David Grizzle, the FAA’s CEO of the Air Traffic Organization (ATO), said at the same hearing that he had received no specific direction as to the impact of Sequestration on ATO.
Mr. Efford explained the perverse logic that only a budget analyst would comprehend:
- the 2011 Budget Control Act would impact the funding for air traffic controller positions,
- FAA senior management could not tolerate such a degradation of ATC safety (one estimate is that 1,200 air traffic controllers, 250 airport control towers and 600 safety inspectors and certification staff would be lost), and
- using their budget transfer powers, the Administrator could (read “would”) transfer moneys allocated to NextGen expenditures dedicated to future projects (although needed now to be ready to implement on the scheduled promised) to the current ATC staffing!
Mr. Efford’s prediction is a lot more reliable than your local weather forecast; he knows how budgets REALLY work. Supporters of the defense budget are beating on the Congressional drums. Civil aviation needs to get on board and let Congress and the public know the impact that SEQUESTRATION would have on our nation’s air transportation system.