FAA’s 2014 Budget Remains Unresolved

 - September 1, 2013, 3:35 AM

Congress left Washington for its annual break without taking any action on FAA funding for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins October 1. Many other government agencies–including the rest of the Department of Transportation–also are awaiting appropriations.

Rep. Rick Larson (D-Wash.), ranking minority member of the House aviation subcommittee, accused Republicans of not even trying to come up with a bill that Democrats could support. “The Republicans weren’t even able to write a bill that Republicans would support,” he declared.

Both the House and the Senate curtailed debate on their 2014 DOT and FAA spending bills, and talk of government shutdowns began to circulate. When lawmakers return this month, they will have mere weeks to come up with new spending plans before the current funding expires on September 30.

Meanwhile, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta met last month with a dozen aviation industry stakeholders to discuss initial planning for the next round of sequestration slated to begin early next year unless Congress acts before then.

Huerta reviewed the agency’s Fiscal Year 2013 actions, which involved reductions of $486 million, and said the Fiscal Year 2014 target would be reductions of $697 million. He outlined $500 million in cuts through reductions in overtime, travel, contracts and service cuts, as well as attrition and hiring freezes for FY2014.

According to the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), Huerta discussed a series of “bad choices,” including furloughs, deferring controller hiring, reductions in the efficiency of the system and shrinking of services.

Specific examples of shrinking services identified by the Administrator included phased-out funding for contract towers, flight service stations and contract weather observers, with the explanation that “this allows the FAA to target remaining resources to serve the largest number of passengers at the most used locations.”

Huerta said a broad-based solution is needed to end sequestration, and not a series of year-by-year fixes. He also expressed his concern about the challenges associated with short-term continuing resolutions.

The AAAE told its members that “it is difficult to find reasons for optimism that the two sides can come together in any meaningful way to address either immediate or long-term budget difficulties.”