White House FAA Budget Request Focuses on UAS, NextGen

 - March 12, 2019, 7:38 AM

The White House is seeking $17.1 billion for the FAA in Fiscal Year 2020 in a budget request released yesterday that would include a nearly $300 million increase in facilities and equipment (F&E) funding as the Administration emphasizes NextGen modernization and integration of unmanned systems.

At the same time, the FY20 budget request seeks to shave about $70 million off the FAA’s operations budget, to $10.34 billion, and as much from its research and development (R&D) efforts, to $120 million, from FY19 levels. Overall, the budget would fall short of this fiscal year’s levels by $350 million, but the enacted FY19 budget included a $500 million bump for airports funding meant as a one-time investment. Aside from the loss of that additional investment, airports funding remains flat at $3.35 billion.

The White House, noting the importance of investing in the National Airspace System, is asking for nearly $3.3 billion for F&E, including $1.22 billion to support NextGen efforts.  The budget would set aside $136 million to further expand the Data Comm program, which enables pilots and controllers to communicate electronically.

Further, the budget emphasizes support of emerging transportation technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems, commercial space transportation, and autonomous vehicles “to ensure the transformative benefits of these emerging technologies are realized.”

This includes funding to enable the FAA to further its efforts to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System. The White House requests $63.1 million, an increase of $12 million, in FAA’s operations budget for UAS integration efforts. Another $130.8 million would be set aside in the agency’s F&E account for the development of an Unmanned Traffic Management System, which would be a separate but complementary system. The funding would cover technology to track approved UAS flight plans. Still, another $7.5 million would come out of the R&D budget to examine the implications of new unmanned operational concepts.

Cybersecurity also gets attention in the newest budget, with $7.8 million requested—up $5.1 million—“to safeguard against internal and external cyber threats, as well as protect our new technologies.” Another $2.7 million is requested to enable the FAA to enhance its ability “to analyze large datasets, with visualization tools for aggregating and correlating current operational, behavioral, and environmental data with the express intent of understanding, predicting, and responding to cyber events.”

In addition, the White House is asking for $1.6 million to fund a new Office of Innovation that will examine the overall impact and integration of new technologies.