While relieved that the partial U.S. government shutdown ended Friday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) fears that workers could face another shutdown when the temporary funding agreement lapses on February 15 and says the experience underscores the need for a predictable funding stream for federal agencies.
NATCA president Paul Rinaldi credited Friday’s temporary agreement to fund the government through February 15 in part to “the tireless activism of NATCA’s members,” adding, “We express our deepest gratitude to NATCA members who continued to work for the past 35 days despite the stress caused by the shutdown.” He made an equal acknowledgment of other aviation safety professionals furloughed and expressed appreciation for the support received from other industry stakeholders.
Having said that, “We must not lose focus on the short-term nature of this agreement,” Rinaldi said, noting that industry groups need to keep up the pressure to ensure that the shutdown does not return in mid-February. “This 35-day shutdown reinforces our strong belief that the status quo is broken,” he added. “The National Airspace System requires a stable, predictable funding stream to adequately support air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventive maintenance, ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure, integration of new entrants, and the timely implementation of NextGen modernization projects.”
Crises from stop-and-go funding “wreak havoc on our system,” he said.
Other organizations also urged leaders to ensure that the shutdown does not return in a few weeks. “The pressures and strains of a shutdown are not sustainable; the disruptions to passengers, commerce, and the economy are not tolerable,” said Airlines for America president and CEO Nicholas Calio. “We urge elected leaders to continue working together to identify a solution that will keep the government open beyond February 15 and will continue paying the dedicated federal employees.”
Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), meanwhile, stressed, “While we are pleased 800,000 federal workers and their families will get a temporary reprieve from this nightmare, shuttering the government for  days never should have happened in the first place.”
The government cannot properly function without full funding, Willis said. “We cannot allow our government to go unfunded again. The fact that our nation’s federal workforce continues to face uncertainty is unacceptable.”