Washington Report: Security funding hurts GA airports

 - May 9, 2008, 7:26 AM

A $504 million increase in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funds for new security projects in fiscal year 2002 has affected the amount of funds available for some airport development projects compared with the money awarded in FY 2001, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report prepared for Congress.

Although the FAA was able to fully fund projects related to safety and security, noise mitigation and reduction, congressional earmarks and all phased projects that had previously been funded under AIP, there were reductions in AIP funding awarded to nonsecurity projects.

“Although large and small hub airports received increases in their AIP funds,” the GAO said, “nonhub and reliever [GA] airports received the greatest reduction in their funding for fiscal year 2002, compared with fiscal year 2001.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, cautioned that such spending should not undercut the other needs of the air transportation system, such as improving equipment safety and enhancing capacity to relieve congestion.

“While the committee is pleased that security needs have been met without compromising safety, we remain concerned that future safety and capacity needs of the aviation industry not be shortchanged in the drive to improve aviation security,” said Young, who asked the GAO to prepare the report. “As the country climbs out of the recession and fears of terrorism subside, air traffic is likely to increase. We do not want to see the sort of congestion and delays that plagued the airlines and their passengers in previous years.”

Young said it is important that the AIP program continues to have sufficient funds to support airport safety and capacity enhancing projects, while at the same time improving airport security.