With the automatic U.S. budget cuts known as sequestration all but certain to take effect tomorrow, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta explained why they will have such a deep effect on his agency. In testimony yesterday before the House aviation subcommittee, Huerta also lamented that the financial “predictability” the one-year-old FAA reauthorization provided his agency has been all but erased by sequestration.
“Under sequestration…we have limited flexibility to choose what it is that we’re able to cut,” he said. “A large portion of the DOT’s budget is exempt from the sequester…[so] the FAA will take more than 60 percent of the sequester cuts for all of the DOT, even though our agency makes up only about 20 percent of the department’s budget.” And within the FAA, the Airport Improvement Program is exempt from the sequester, amplifying the cuts elsewhere at the agency.
Congress also deferred sequestration decisions by a half year, meaning that the cuts in this fiscal year need to be done in about six months. So “the cuts would need to be deeper to have the same effect as if we could spread them out,” Huerta said.
As part of the budget cuts, the FAA is planning to close the towers at 100 airports, eliminate overnight controllers at 60 more airfields and furlough employees, even those deemed “essential.”