ATCA Discussions Highlight Worries About NextGen

 - November 4, 2013, 2:39 PM
Leaders of U.S. air traffic controllers have expressed concern about the impact of ongoing federal government budget cuts on the NextGen air traffic management system modernization program.

Industry leaders attending the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) conference in Washington last month made it clear that one of their major concerns is that additional sequestration cuts are likely to further slow the deployment of the FAA’s $40 billion NextGen air traffic management system.

Most attendees indicated they believe budget ups and downs are likely to continue in the near future, leaving few options other than reevaluating the entire program and its priorities. The FAA’s NextGen Advisory Committee has already received marching orders to create a list that separates critical NextGen priorities from those that might be shelved for implementation later.

While the FAA spent considerable resources over the past year dealing with budgeting and furlough concerns, the agency’s deputy administrator, Michael Whitaker, believes NextGen’s complexity makes it almost impossible to simply scale the system up or down at will without sending major ripples through the rest of the ATC system.

Whitaker said the agency remains committed to NextGen but acknowledges the crucial need for greater fiscal certainty in the next year.