New Fears over Sequestration’s Impact on NextGen

A meeting today of an industry-government advisory committee formed by the FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will set priorities in anticipation of a variety of budget scenarios. Implications of this fall's coming budget battles could weigh even more heavily on aviation infrastructure than initially expected. At risk are core elements of the NextGen air traffic modernization program, and day-to-day infrastructure upkeep. There is even talk of controller furloughs like those seen following the last government funding crisis.

Huerta told Government Executive, an online news outlet specializing in Washington issues, "The administration continues to urge Congress to act to replace the damaging cuts imposed by the sequester with a balanced approach that reduces the deficit while protecting critical priorities."

At odds with such an approach is a House plan that would cut FAA funding by an additional $439 million below 2013 levels, slashing the administration's budget request by 22 percent, or $623 million. House Republicans justify the cutbacks, in part, with concerns about the FAA's capability to effect NextGen improvements. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), chairman of the House transportation aviation subcommittee, challenged the FAA's, "ability to effectively and efficiently implement NextGen. I've heard that some ‘transformational' NextGen programs aren't truly transformational…and that nobody can really agree what NextGen is today or what it should be in 2025."

Huerta said of the budget conflict, "This uncertainty undermines the roadmap that the FAA and Congress laid out for NextGen. It was only last year that we all agreed that these goals were extremely important to protect the great contribution that civil aviation makes to our economy."

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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