In July 2011, the lapse in FAA’s authorization caused the FAA to stop work on numerous projects funded through the Facilities and Equipment account, including NextGen modernization projects.
In April 2013, the government-wide sequester caused the FAA to furlough air traffic controllers (among other employees), resulting in massive delays throughout the air traffic control system. The sequester also interrupted funding for NextGen programs – and imposed significant re-start expenses when funding was resumed.
In October 2013, the government shutdown resulted in many FAA employee furloughs. While air traffic controllers were generally not furloughed, NextGen programs were again negatively affected.
Workforce readiness has declined dramatically as training programs have been suspended and decades-old training systems become more stretched in the face of a generational retirement wave. Ground delay programs are now occurring as a result of insufficient staffing.
Air traffic control operations and capital investment depend on the annual appropriations process, which is simply not conducive to long-term planning.
Air traffic control needs to compete with the rest of the government for funding, even when there is sufficient money in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF).
Decisions that could result in more efficient operations are often stopped due to political factors.
Congress can’t “fix” NextGen through the FAA Reauthorization bill and better oversight. Over the past few decades, Congress has passed many FAA Reauthorization bills and annual appropriations bills, held scores of hearings; and directed GAO and the DOT IG to investigate the FAA’s troubles implementing NextGen. Unfortunately, there is very little progress to show for it, despite billions of dollars of stakeholder and taxpayer investments. What is needed is a new governance model in which a team of aviation industry experts – representing all segments of aviation operators and employees – are empowered and have a fiduciary duty to oversee the operation of a 21st century ANSP.
Tell Congress to Modernize Our Air Traffic Control Operations