Shuster and LoBiondo Statements from Hearing on the FAA Modernization and Reform Act: Two Years Later
Shuster and LoBiondo Opening Statements
Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
I want to thank Chairman LoBiondo for holding this hearing today to examine the ongoing implementation of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which Congress passed two years ago.
It’s important to look at where we’ve been and where we are now, and to also look ahead and begin planning for the next reauthorization.
The aviation industry was invented in America, and we continue to be the world leader in the airline industry and in aviation manufacturing. But if we’re not careful and proactive, we could lose our position as the global leader in aviation, just as we’ve fallen behind in other important industries.
Aviation is economically vital and essential to our global competitiveness. It means millions of American jobs and more than a trillion dollars for our economy.
The Reform Act included important reforms to help strengthen our aviation system, and they must be implemented. We must also talk about how we are going to ensure a strong future for the system. We plan to sit down with interested stakeholders and listen to everyone’s ideas for the next reauthorization. We will take a close look at other aviation systems around the world to see what lessons we can learn from their successes and shortcomings.
Working together we can develop an FAA bill that ensures a bright future for American aviation.
Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Today we are going to hear from the FAA Administrator, as well as the Department of Transportation Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, regarding the status of the FAA’s implementation of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, or “Reform Act.” It has been almost two years and as the Subcommittee begins to look ahead to the next reauthorization, it will be helpful to understand how the FAA has implemented the mandates of the last reauthorization.
Let me begin by commending Administrator Huerta for the FAA’s recent selection of the unmanned aircraft systems or “UAS” test ranges, as directed by the Reform Act. Of course the next challenge is to get the test ranges up and running and the sooner the better.
The ranges will be used to test and demonstrate UAS technologies and capabilities, and gather much needed safety and operational data. As I understand it, the data will be transmitted to the FAA Technical Center and its industry partners for review and validation. I welcome any comments our witnesses have regarding the FAA’s efforts to implement the UAS provisions of the Reform Act.
Along with the UAS provisions, there are many other mandates included in the Reform Act – roughly 200 as the FAA likes to point out. In the nearly two years since the bill was enacted, the FAA has made progress in some areas, but remains challenged in others. Admittedly, not every provision or mandate is created equal, but it is still important to hear about the FAA’s progress in implementing the law.
The FAA’s NextGen program is a collaborative effort to modernize the air traffic control system using new technologies that are intended to increase efficiency and capacity, improve safety, and reduce aviation’s impact on the environment. The Reform Act made significant changes to the NextGen program and the FAA has made progress implementing some provisions, but as the GAO and IG point out in their testimony, significant actions are needed to meet the intent of the Reform Act and improve the execution and management of NextGen.
For example, the FAA needs to demonstrate benefits, such as through the use of ADS-B technology or the implementation of performance-based GPS approaches, two areas in which the FAA is lacking according to the GAO and IG. Taxpayers and airspace users have invested a lot of money in NextGen, but considering repeated program delays and cost overruns, as well as our ongoing budget constraints, we need to hold the FAA accountable for implementing NextGen.
Further, I want to make clear to Administrator Huerta that I am closely monitoring the FAA’s response to the NextGen Advisory Committee’s priority recommendations. This was not an exercise undertaken to validate the FAA’s NextGen implementation plan and it should not be treated as such by the FAA.
The NAC stakeholders responded to an FAA request quickly and deliberately, and produced a set of consensus-based recommendations regarding which NextGen capabilities need to be prioritized given the tight federal budget environment. These recommendations must be taken seriously and the agency has to show stakeholders that it is taking the necessary steps to address them.
The Reform Act also includes a provision intended to allow NextGen to move forward while saving taxpayer money by establishing a process for the FAA to consolidate and realign facilities and services, without adversely impacting safety. The law requires the FAA to develop a report with recommendations and transmit it to Congress. The law ultimately gives the agency the authority to implement Congressionally-approved and stakeholder-supported recommendations.
The FAA has a plan to develop a series of realignment and consolidation reports, and the agency will include stakeholders in the discussion, but if delays persist it will be yet another roadblock to air traffic control modernization.
Another similar good governance provision requires the FAA to review its programs, offices, and organizations to identify wasteful practices, obsolete functions, and inefficient processes, and recommend ways to address the inefficiencies. More importantly, it requires the agency to carry out its recommendations and actually address its findings.
The FAA has submitted its findings to Congress, but I am not aware of any actions the agency has taken to implement them. Congress did not intend for FAA to issue the report and then just let it sit on a shelf and collect dust. The FAA must act on its recommendations and keep Congress informed on its progress.
Despite the delays, there are many important provisions that must be implemented addressing FAA staffing, certification processes, passenger rights, and safety issues. I look forward to hearing the status of these along with the UAS, NextGen, and good governance provisions included in the Reform Act.
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