While many people breathed a sigh of relief when Congress pulled the nation back from the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the beginning of the new year, most of those who were following the contretemps didn’t realize it was mainly political theater.
“While we are pleased Congress made some headway on tax elements to avert the fiscal cliff, we are concerned that they could not agree to a long-term solution to fix a problem no serious person wants: sequestration,” said Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) president and CEO Marion Blakey.
“If sequestration is not solved in the next 57 days, it would be an abdication of responsibility by the leaders of this country, one that will only heighten Americans’ cynicism and cement the public image of a gridlocked Washington that simply doesn’t work,” she added.
Blakey, who served a five-year stint as FAA Administrator early last decade, described sequestration as a slow-motion catastrophe for the nation’s military forces, space program and virtually every critical government function from air traffic control and border security to food inspection and more.
According to AIA, more than 2 million Americans across all sectors of the economy will lose their jobs starting in 57 days “if political leaders fail to fix the self-inflicted wound of sequestration” and the dangers it poses to the Defense Department and national security.
User Fee Threat Remains
AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller said the actions by Congress should prevent dramatic budget reductions in the 2012-2013 budget for the time being, which could have had a serious effect on airports and modernizing the ATC system.
But he cautioned that the path forward will take the nation down a road to yet another large debate that the new 113th Congress must consider within the next few months. “In this debate, budget reductions will be demanded as the price of supporting a debt ceiling increase necessary to continue funding federal government operations,” Fuller explained.
Meanwhile, the President is required to submit to the Congress his 2013-2014 Federal Budget Plan. “Given the statements made during 2012,” Fuller said, “we have every reason to believe that the Administration will come in search of more revenue from the general aviation community, and their search seems to focus on operational user fees.”
On January 14, NBAA joined more than 50 organizations in petitioning the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that President Obama’s budget request includes adequate funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing at U.S. ports of entry. The groups said understaffing at ports “increases wait times, costs industry billions and discourages business and leisure travelers from visiting the U.S.”
In addition, the groups said CBP should continue to focus on ways that can use its current staff more effectively, through expanding trusted-traveler programs, aggressively implementing its Trade Transformation Agenda and evaluating additional methods for increasing efficiency at the ports.