Are FAA Sequester Cuts as “Dumb” as They Look?

Sequestration budget cuts are a “dumb idea,” which “will not work,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  Sure, the sequester was not the best way to cut federal spending; however, in light of our nation’s $16.6 trillion debt, spending definitely needs to be cut.  And to be clear, there are areas in which this can be done.  Sadly, most of the people running the federal government can’t seem to understand that.

Take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for example.

The FAA requested $15.172 billion for FY2013, but the Continuing Resolution – passed last fall – locked in funding levels of $16.668 billion.  The FAA’s sequester hit will be just $669 million, which means their post-sequester funding level of $15.999 billion will still be above their original request.

You read that right!  The FAA is getting more than they need – more than they asked for – even after sequester cuts.

Nonetheless, the Washington Post reports that “the administration has portrayed a grim picture of long lines at airports and closed airport towers if the required reductions at the Federal Aviation Administration are allowed to proceed.”  To be sure, the President has used FAA sequester cuts to beef up his dramatic sequester act.

But even Spencer Dickerson of the American Association of Airport Executives said, “There’s a lot of dramatics going on.”

Here’s the FAA’s argument and that of others who oppose the sequester budget cuts.

The FAA uses 71 percent of its operations budget to pay salaries for controllers, supervisors, air safety inspectors and technicians, and therefore, when it is asked to make a 5 percent budget “reduction” in seven months, a large chunk of that has to come from personnel.   This will in turn affect travelers.

But think about this: the FAA’s expenses have climbed significantly in the past several years due to union contracts and congressional pressure to bolster the ranks of aviation safety inspectors.  In fact, the FAA budget has grown even as air travel has fallen.

And this taxpayer money is not being spent efficiently.

There are the roughly 112 airports subsidized by the Essential Air Service (EAS).  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program was put in place to guarantee – with taxpayer dollars – that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.

Of the 124 EAS funded airports (excluding Alaska), only 19 made it onto the list of 233 airports in which air traffic control facilities may be close.  So rather than closing – or threatening to close – those air traffic control facilities that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies through the EAS program, President Obama would prefer to inconvenience travelers and close airports that are in greater demand by travelers.

Rather than continuing to breed government dependence among the airline industry, the Heritage Foundation has proposed the following suggestions:

[A]ll non-safety functions of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are transferred to the private sector, and most FAA fees are eliminated. The air traffic control system will be transferred to the private sector, where it belongs, and financed by flight ticket user fees. The airport improvement program is also terminated, with airlines, state government, and private investment taking the place of the federal taxpayer.

If lawmakers had taken these reforms seriously when they were proposed in 2011, today’s debate would be different.  If they believed in free market principles and legislated accordingly, our national debt would be different as well.

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6 thoughts on “Are FAA Sequester Cuts as “Dumb” as They Look?

  1. Pingback: Obama’s 2-Percent Flip Flops « OBAMA-B-GONEOBAMA-B-GONE

  2. The FAA may be getting more than they needed last year but do you know that air traffic controllers are reaching mandatory retirement ages in mass quantities and most facilities are understaffed currently. Factor in the cost it takes to hire and train new controllers to replace these people and that is a very large number. Many facilities are working mandatory 6 day work weeks because they are short staffed. Some facilities have 1/3 of their employees eligible for retirement currently. Not to mention an aging system of navigational aids and communication systems that requires a huge amount of upkeep. Is it no wonder that it takes more money to keep the system running.

  3. As a pilot this is horrifing. We will continue to serve some, not all airports/cities without operating control towers. As a passenger you should know Ms. Rosario is a borderline political idiot with staggering ignorance as to air travel; no doubt about it, your safety margin just took a hit. An aviation underwriter for the $50-150 million dollar hull and another 50 million in liabs will be raising their premiums. Passengers will not only be exposed to less safety, but will pay more for the oportunity. The rich will not be affected as their private jets rarely fly at night or into cities that aren’t important enough. All so Exxon, GE and 200 other corporations will not only not pay taxes, but many will get a refund. FAA FAR 135/121 flights require a certified weather observer, not only are we gonna miss the controller, we’re gonna miss real weather. Those airports cannot be served at all by us, but corporate jets aren’t required the wx observer. Those cities should be concerned with the loss of cargo (FEDX, UPS, USPS) A study released today by the Aerospace Industries Association and Econsult Corporation estimates that budget cuts to Federal Aviation Administration operations as a result of sequestration could cost up to 132,000 aviation jobs, sap $80 billion a year from the nation’s gross domestic product and strip almost two billion pounds of freight capacity out of an air cargo system that is already buckling at the seams.
    According to the study, annual economic losses could amount to $80 billion annually by 2035, an annual decrease of 37 to 73 million in passenger enplanements and annual reductions of 1 to 2 billion pounds of transported air freight. The forecasted loss in output to the U.S. economy is estimated to reach $9.2 to $18.4 billion, with $2.7 to $5.4 billion lost in wages and salaries.

  4. “Of the 124 EAS funded airports (excluding Alaska), only 19 made it onto the list of 233 airports in which air traffic control facilities may be close. So rather than closing – or threatening to close – those air traffic control facilities that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies through the EAS program.”

    The program does not subsidize “air traffic control facilities” it subsidizes passenger tickets. Federal appropriation law does not allow moving funds from one appropriation to another except by the amount stated by law which is usually 2% of the appropriation.

    Also, I believe the difference between the FAA budget request and what was given was in the Airports Grant Program which is not even part of the sequester cuts because they are exempted. The grant program has absolutely nothing to do with FAA operations. They are in two different appropriations.

    The author should do a little more research before discussing the issue.

  5. Pingback: Making it Hurt | What Would The Founders Think?

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