FAA Furloughs: Sens. Chambliss and Isakson Weigh In
There seemed to be a drumbeat yesterday. The prediction was doom, gloom and delays with the implementation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sequestration cuts. All the media were saying, “big delays coming.” As the day wore on, there were no new stories. Then the stories started to switch to, “delays aren’t more than usual, but just wait for bad weather.” Even the President’s home newspaper, The Chicago Tribune, reported, “Airlines Fly Above Air Traffic Doomsday Predictions.”
Senators Isakson and Chambliss sent out a newsletter with a copy of the letter to the FAA. In their wording, they hedged their bets that there might be delays but still took the FAA to task for starting with cuts that would most effect the traveler.
“It is our belief that the FAA is not pursuing every avenue possible to save money without affecting its overall mission, which is to ‘provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.’ While we understand that safety remains the top priority for the FAA, we would encourage you to review other areas to reduce costs, such as in non-personnel, travel, and consultant accounts, before implementing air traffic controller furloughs.”
Here’s the full text of the letter Chambliss and Isakson sent:
Administrator Michael Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., SW, Room 1010
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Huerta:
Members of Congress and staff were notified today of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to furlough air traffic controllers, effective just three days from now on April 21. It is our understanding that the decision will require one furlough day per pay period, totaling 11 furlough days for the remainder of FY2013, and will reduce staffing in towers by 10 percent.
Based on the information we received today from the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), this 10 percent reduction in air traffic controller staffing is anticipated to cause significant and consistent passenger and cargo delays. Overall, the FAA predicts that between 3,800 and 6,000 flights per day will experience delays as a direct result of these furloughs. To put this into perspective, the worst weather day during 2012 produced 2,600 flight delays. As you know, the FAA defines a delay by 15 minutes or more.
According to the airline industry, the FAA has acknowledged that airlines will have to extend their operation schedules into the late evening or early morning hours, or cancel flights all together. When you take into consideration high load factors and peak travel hours/days, passengers will most likely be unable to book or even rebook flights, as a result of such cancelations.
It is our belief that the FAA is not pursuing every avenue possible to save money without affecting its overall mission, which is to “provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.” While we understand that safety remains the top priority for the FAA, we would encourage you to review other areas to reduce costs, such as in non-personnel, travel, and consultant accounts, before implementing air traffic controller furloughs. We also encourage you to remain, as your mission states, “accountable to the American public and stakeholders.”
In order to better understand the FAA’s plans for dealing with sequestration, please provide our offices with your methodology for arriving at this decision. Additionally, in the future, we would appreciate the courtesy of being informed well in advance when decisions of this magnitude are contemplated.
Finally, The RNC used this as an opportunity to raise money:
“He’s doing it again. As if playing politics with White House tours wasn’t enough, the Obama Administration is now doing the same thing with airline travel.
The Federal Aviation Administration is now planning to furlough 47,000 workers throughout the rest of the fiscal year. The absence of these workers could delay flights in major airports 3 1/2 hours, and will create massive problems for travelers and shippers this summer.
There are a number of ways the FAA can reduce costs and meet government cutbacks without creating problems for travelers, but once again with this Administration, it’s all politics, all the time.
Obama is looking for ways to point the finger at Republicans over the sequester, and pressuring the FAA into cuts that have the greatest impact on the traveling public is the latest attempt to do so.
Martha Zoller’s ZPolitics Takeaway: Chambliss and Isakson are right. The Feds have made no effort to really change the structure of government to save money. The president could challenge his cabinet members to restructure. You could take the Senate budget, the House budget and a serious presidential budget (the one he submitted was not serious) and I bet you could find some common ground for cuts. In 2000, I spoke to Rep. John Lewis about spending cuts. We disagreed on where they should be. I said to him, “You make a list of 20 programs to cut, I’ll make a list and I bet we can find 2 we can agree on.” That’s 10%, that’s a start.
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