FAA Reauthorization: Issues in Modernizing and Operating the Nation’s Airspace
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript
Shuster and LoBiondo Opening Statements
Hearing on “FAA Reauthorization: Issues in Modernizing and Operating the Nation’s Airspace”
November 18, 2014
(Remarks as Prepared)
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
In 1958, Congress recognized the need to establish a comprehensive aviation regulatory and air traffic control system. This system has served our country remarkably well and today we have the safest system in the world. However, the world has changed since 1958 in numerous ways and it is time to take stock of where we are and what we need for the decades ahead.
Today’s hearing is an opportunity for us to learn what issues we should consider as we plan for the next FAA reauthorization and beyond. It will not come as a surprise to any pilot who has waited in a long line of planes on the tarmac, or to any passenger who has watched the departures board as his or her flight is delayed or cancelled, that our system can be better.
Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was created 56 years ago, there have been many attempts at reform. For instance, numerous advisory committees have made reform recommendations based upon input from aviation stakeholders. Both President Clinton and President Bush sought to reform the FAA in order to ensure the level of air traffic control service that Americans deserved. While each had varying degrees of success, neither was able to implement long lasting, transformative reform.
As air travel continues to grow and our airspace becomes increasingly more complex, we must ensure that the infrastructure, rules, processes, and laws are up-to-date and able to withstand the test of time. To do that, we must make sure that the FAA is properly structured to carry out modernization efforts and operate as efficiently as absolutely possible.
In report after report, the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (IG) – and the Government Accountability Office for that matter – has identified costly problems with the FAA’s management of air traffic control modernization programs. For example, in 1998, the IG found that in carrying out one modernization program, the FAA had wasted a billion dollars in taxpayer money. Sadly, the IG will testify today that this is not uncommon. He notes that of 15 major acquisitions that were ongoing as of September 2013, eight included acquisition cost increases amounting to $4.9 billion, and eight experienced delays. This waste is the result of the FAA’s inability to plan effectively and manage programs in a way that delivers reasonable, cost effective, and beneficial outcomes.
Congress has an important role in the modernization effort, and will continue to provide the tools and resources necessary while also conducting oversight to ensure taxpayer money is not being wasted. Now is the time for us to learn from past mistakes, while at the same time taking note of what other nations have accomplished and how they have done it. What successes can be applied to the American system that will help us safely and efficiently modernize our airspace? I don’t have all the answers so I look to aviation stakeholders for their input.
As we move forward, all options are on the table. However, anything we do in the FAA Reauthorization needs to be done together, to ensure that our work helps lay a foundation for the brightest possible future of U.S. aviation. America invented aviation, we have been the leader in aviation innovation, but we are starting to lose our edge. We cannot allow this to happen and we must act now.
Subcommittee on Aviation
The United States has a great deal to be proud of when in it comes to aviation. Thanks to the men and women in this country who, day-in and day-out, pilot aircraft, serve as air traffic controllers, care for passengers, maintain equipment, and numerous other important jobs, we have the safest and busiest aviation system in the world that keeps our economy ticking and serves as a model of American global leadership.
This industry and these issues are near and dear to my heart. As many of you know, the FAA Tech Center in my district has played a vital role in making advances in aviation safety and air traffic control technology over the last fifty plus years and will continue to do so.
However, I believe there are some things we need to do even better, like getting technology programs both done and delivering benefits on-time without any further waste of the taxpayers’ money.
Let’s look at the long-term challenges our aviation sector is facing and be bold and decisive in addressing them through an open exchange of ideas. It’s my hope today to learn what issues we in Congress need to think about as we look ahead to the next FAA Reauthorization and beyond to ensure we continue to have the safest system possible that also secures America’s leadership in this vital and growing global industry.