NextGen is a technological transformation of the air traffic control system from a ground based system to a one which uses satellites for navigational purposes. Included in that switch from radar to GPS is a recognition that the number and location of facilities (see above chart) should be reduced and consolidated.
The FAA has begun a process to achieve those very significant cost savings and resistance has come from unions and politicians. The labor organizations want to spare their members from having to move and the elected officials are weary of the loss of the high paying air traffic controllers.
The air traffic control system is a national asset and it must be managed to assure country-wide safety and efficiency. Parochial interests have hampered the attainment of such economies in the past – in the 1980s, the FAA attempted to consolidate some of its local offices and the Congressional furor was intense and deleterious.
The Reason Foundation and Robert Poole, aided by Michael Harrison, the FAA’s former Director of architectural and systems engineering, have published their own study which found that a one-time savings of $1.7 and about $1 billion more annually could be achieved by closing 187 air-traffic radar rooms and building consolidated centers to control flights over large regions.
If Congress really has learned anything from sequestration, it must be that the legislature must take smart action to reduce the cost of government. Here is a program which will invest in infrastructure and holds the promise of reducing the FAA’s daily operational expenses. The only impediment to achieving those efficiencies is Congressional parochialism. The Reason Foundation and the FAA’s own studies agree that the savings are real and substantial.
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