Sean Broderick at Aviation Week, a highly regarded FAA observer, commented:
Faced with meeting increasing demands with a shrinking budget, the FAA has outlined plans to reallocate resources and change some processes in fiscal 2019, the agency’s detailed budget request shows. The agency’s $16.1 billion request is about 1.9% below its mostly recently approved budget, covering fiscal 2017 (Aviation Daily, Feb. 14). Factor in mandatory budget increases, such as pay raises, and increasing demand in a few areas—notably the continued integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—and the FAA’s requested fiscal 2019 pool of money seems even more shallow.
The same scribe, writing for MRO.Network. com, commented:
FAA says traditional certification and oversight work will not increase much next year. But it sees a spike in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) work, as well as an increase in the level of complexity that some of these projects will bring. While FAA's staffing plan calls for adding AVS personnel "in the future," its fiscal 2019 strategy is to redirect existing resources. "The number of UAS aviation products requiring certification and approvals services is anticipated to expand within the system and products as well as operational complexity is anticipated to increase as new technologies are introduced," FAA said. "These factors are driving the need in the short-term to reprioritize some of AVS existing resources for certification services and UAS integration." He must have a high tolerance for caffeine to be able to consume 500+ pages of the text accompanying the FAA BUDGET ESTIMATES for Fiscal Year 2019. It also must be noted that the language of appropriations writers has its own patois, which normal humans may not fully comprehend. Given those delimitations, here are some observations [after this summary]:
- AVS should be commended for taking the largest cut, but…
Congresses and repeated Administrations have made it crystal clear as to all executive agencies that as to Full Time Equivalents (FTEs; appropriation language), SMALLER IS BETTER. Aviation Safety has designed a long term strategy, Safety Management Systems. SMS, among other benefits, reduces manpower needs by increasing the available, actionable data.
Similarly,the move towards a performance versus prescriptive standard for aircraft certification should also reduce staffing needs.
Both initiatives, however, require transitions, particularly as to the skill sets for the folks in the field. While both new approaches are in place, has there been enough practical application to demonstrate that they are field ready?
2.Pause to consider…
The President’s Budget request includes a total of $73 million for the safe integration of UAS, commonly referred to as drones, into the National Airspace System. This includes $50.8 million in Operations to set policies, procedures, and standards; $18 million in Facilities & Equipment to develop technologies that will automate authorization requests and eventually bring UAS under air traffic control; $3.3 million in Research, Engineering & Development to study the safety implications of new operational concepts and technology as well as support the development of new regulatory standards; and $1.2 million in Grants-in-Aid for Airports to safely integrate UAS into airport operations. Innovations in UAS technology have fueled a dramatic growth, with FAA’s UAS registry recently logging 1 million users. FAA is taking an incremental approach to UAS integration, seeking to balance public safety and security concerns with the flexibility for innovation. p.O-1 .....
The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget also requests $31 million to allow us to keep pace with the increasing diversity, complexity and volume of commercial space activities
These two quotes and the numbers associated with them make it clear that the FAA’s mission in expanding. If autonomous aerial vehicles, manned vertical aero automobiles and other innovative aviation platforms are also jammed into the FAA’s responsibilities, PERHAPS, it is time to pause and think about whether these new modes merit another or more than one new mode within DOT? The addition to the FAA Space Organization when the AVS organization is being reduced raises the question of whether the Appropriators regard the personnel allocation of these two office constitute a Zero Sum game. The demand of the Space Community for MORE FAA regulation is an indicator that the staff devoted to certificating their ships and controlling their launches.
a.Does the DOT experiment of devolving UAS regulation to states, counties and municipalities portend that some/all of the FAA responsibilities will move? Does this language in the 2019 FY Budget give further credence to this transfer?
The Operations budget includes nearly $51 million to develop the policies, procedures, and standards for safe UAS operations in the National Airspace System. Funds will also be used to work with law enforcement agencies, airports, and other government agencies (federal, state and local) to ensure public safety and security; to coordinate with stakeholder groups, advisory groups and other government agencies (federal, state and local) to identify UAS priorities and educate on UAS rules and guidance; and to review applications for specific UAS operations to ensure their safety.
3. Partisan statement in Budget on authorization
The Appropriators, historically, have prided their proceedings as being non-partisan. Thus, this quote in this document is curious:
This makes the President’s vision of a self-sustaining, nongovernmental, not-for-profit air traffic control entity achievable now. The President’s budget request for the FAA continues the current financial and organizational structures during a time when it proposes to begin the transition of shifting the air traffic control function of the FAA to an independent entity, making the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety. p.O-2
4.In a year of Infrastructure, not much said about innovation in airports:
The Administration has made Infrastructure Innovation a hallmark of its agenda, However, the Overview to the FY 19 Budget limits its comments on AIP to this:
Grants-in-Aid for Airports "The FY 2019 budget request of $3.4 billion provides the funding needed to ensure safety, capacity, and efficiency at our nation’s airports through federal grants when combined with revenue generated from Passenger Facility Charges. This request supports our continued focus on safety-related development projects, including projects to help reduce runway incursions as well as increased capacity, efficiency, noise mitigation and improving infrastructure conditions." P.O-4
5. Closing comment—ENOUGH ALREADY, CONGRESS
"Since FY 2009, FAA has been funded through 44 appropriation cycles, including continuing resolutions, and 27 authorization cycles, including extensions. There have also been three lapses in authorizations and appropriations, as well as the FY 2013 Sequestration. These frequent challenges to long term capital planning and short term operations put pressure on our operations and are hindering us from transforming the NAS as efficiently and rapidly as our Nation deserves. Further, we can be more accountable to the users of the airspace with a transformation in our governance. The President recognizes our current constraints and our vast potential to help our economy grow, and has proposed a bold transformation that will be good for aviation, our stakeholders, and the citizens of our Nation. The time has come to make that transformation a reality, and we are up to the challenge."
BEFORE AND AFTER ORGANIZATIONAL CHARTS
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