New Legislation Could Fund the FAA During Shutdowns

Bill should not interfere with appropriators.

US Government
Funding the FAA during a government shutdown has never before been attempted.U.S. Government photo

With Friday’s deadline and another partial government shutdown looming over the President’s demand for a border wall, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-4-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (D-2-WA) introduced a bill to allow for a seamless funding stream for the FAA. Should the legislation pass, agency employee salaries would be paid from the nation’s Airport and Airway Trust Fund. The trust fund currently helps pay for FAA investments in the airport and airway system, such as construction and safety improvements at airports, technological upgrades to the air traffic control system, and FAA operations, including providing air traffic control and conducting safety inspections.

The NBAA said, "During this year's partial government shutdown – the longest in the country's history – money continued to be paid into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, but none could be used to fund the FAA, or pay the agency's employees. The DeFazio legislation - H.R. 1108 Supports Safe and Efficient Aviation Operations - would allow, during times of government shutdowns, for money from the fund to pay for the agency's continued operations." The NBAA is encouraging the industry to support the new legislation by contacting their individual members of Congress.

Politico reported additional comments from DeFazio on the bill. "We have a substantial trust fund for the FAA, and [the bill] just says that in times of a government shutdown, the FAA will continue full operations, all functions by drawing on the trust fund to be repaid later when the government is open." The bill has the backing of pilots, air traffic controllers, airlines and flight attendants.

Additionally, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi plans to testify on February 13 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, at a hearing entitled "Putting U.S. Aviation Safety at Risk: The Impact of the Shutdown." Rinaldi is expected to explain how the 35-day shutdown eroded necessary system layers that support and maintain the safety of the National Airspace System. He will also detail how the workforce was negatively affected by stress, fatigue, and distraction caused by the shutdown and the uncertainty about when it would end. He plans to brief the Committee on the costs to taxpayers, including the shutdown-related delays to critical safety programs and explain why the nation cannot allow another shutdown on February 16, or ever again. Rinaldi's testimony will be available on a live stream this Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. EST.