The White House Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal is drawing criticism not only for its plan to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system long-term, but also for near-term cuts. Under budget documents released yesterday, the FAA would sustain a nearly $300 million cut overall from 2017 levels. (Congress has not yet finalized Fiscal Year 2018 levels.) The budget seeks stable airports funding at $3.35 billion, but proposes a $95 million cut in the agency’s operations account to $9.93 billion, an $88 million cut in facilities and equipment, to $2.77 billion, and a $103 million drop in research and development (R&D) funding, to $74 million.
David Silver, vice president for civil aviation for the Aerospace Industries Association, expressed concern that the cuts would slash important NextGen and R&D efforts. “The NextGen modernization program represents the future of the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Yet the Fiscal Year 2019 budget requests $952 million, an amount far below what is required for success and even below the Fiscal Year 2017 enacted level of $1.1 billion,” he said. “The request also cuts important FAA research activities. Especially with increased resources from the recent budget agreement, Congress should reject these reductions.”
The budget documents also renewed the White House call to privatize ATC, drawing fire from numerous business and general aviation groups.
“The Administration and a few members of Congress continue to offer proposals that would take the management of air traffic control operations from the FAA, which places the public interest as its top priority, and give that management to a private entity that would be responsible only to a small, insular board,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce. “The proposals remain a bad idea that lack industry and political consensus, particularly at a time when new industries like commercial space, unmanned aerial vehicles, and urban mobility air vehicles will share the nation’s airspace."
National Air Transportation Association president Marty Hiller vowed to continue to “to fight this existential threat to general aviation and the businesses that support this vital community—supporting more than one million jobs nationwide.”