WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman today joined a bipartisan coalition of senators on an amendment to the Senate Continuing Resolution (CR) to stop the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) targeting air traffic control towers in sequestration. Pryor and Boozman said irresponsible cuts will put the flying public at risk, impair access to rural areas, jeopardize national and civil security missions, and cost jobs.
"We need a reasonable solution to cuts that will impact contract towers and Americans’ air travel ability. Sharing the cost of the cuts to air traffic control evenly, across-the-board is an answer that will minimize the effects on aviation," Boozman said. "It’s a shame the Administration has not worked harder to structure cuts in a way that will reduce their impact."
"To put it simply, I’m extremely disappointed in the FAA’s irresponsible proposal that levies disproportionate cuts on air traffic control towers throughout Arkansas," Pryor said. "This amendment gives the FAA the resources they need to keep our towers open, protect our skies, and maintain jobs and economic development in our state."
In March, Administrator Huerta testified to the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that his irresponsible plan to close 173 FAA Contract Towers on April 7, 2013, will save $45-50 million. The amendment would protect those towers, as well as the federally funded portion of 16 cost-share towers, which would be closed at the end of FY 2013.
The amendment does the following:
• Adds $50 million for the FAA Operations Account and allocates the funding to the Air Traffic Organization to ensure that contract towers remain operational in FY 2013
• Makes clear that the contract tower program and contract tower cost-share program are subject to the same five percent sequestration cut as other programs within the FAA Operations account — rather than the disproportionate 75 percent reduction that FAA is pursuing
• Rescinds the $50 million unobligated FAA research and capital funds from prior appropriations bills to keep spending within the discretionary caps• Funds more than 95 percent of what is needed to fully fund the contract tower program and the cost-sharing program in FY13 — based on the pending House and Senate FY 2013 DOT spending bills.
A report published last summer by the Inspector General for the DOT found that the Contract Tower Program was one of the most efficiently run programs in the FAA. The report also showed the specified towers in the FAA Contract Tower Program were all operational in 2009, when the FAA received less funding than they will under the sequestration.
The amendment is supported by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and other aviation industry groups.