FAA Can’t Justify 90-Minute Flight Delays Under Sequester
Washington, DC – The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today could not provide information to support claims that the nation may expect 90-minute flight delays due to the sequester cuts.
During a Congressional hearing today, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, when asked for data to support this claim, responded, “I can’t tell you with precision that it would be 90 minutes every day.” When Members raised concerns about the Administration’s announcement on delays, despite the lack of precise data or a final plan, Huerta responded, “I think what we’re saying is that these are illustrative of the impacts we would expect to see.”
During the hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Members of the panel expressed frustration with the FAA’s continued lack of data to support the Administration’s predictions of furloughs for nearly all of the agency’s 47,000 employees.
“For months, this committee has been asking the FAA for data about their sequester plans. For months, this committee has received nothing in response,” said Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA). On Monday, Shuster and Senator John Thune wrote to the Administration again requesting immediate answers on their sequester plans, information Congress has been asking for since August of last year.
Given an opportunity to provide those answers today, the FAA again failed to do so. Administrator Huerta repeatedly responded to questions today by saying that the agency was still looking at where it will find savings. When asked about the agency’s plan, Huerta said the FAA has developed an “internal proposal of a way to get there, and now we’ve begun the process of working with all of the stakeholders across the industry.”
“I find it troubling that the FAA and the Administration are still figuring out how to make these cuts but continue to raise the alarm about furloughs and increased delays,” Shuster said.
“The FAA can and must find every way to meet the required cuts while ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public,” said Aviation Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). “This is something that I feel confident the FAA can do.”
Shuster questioned Huerta about the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization budget, the account that includes funding for air traffic controllers. The sequester will require $30 million per month in reductions to this $7.4 billion account. When asked whether the FAA could identify such savings without furloughing controllers, Huerta said the agency was still looking and admitted the agency had flexibility to move funds within the ATO account.
Shuster said, “I find it hard to believe that you can’t find $30 million in savings per month, out of a pot of $7.4 billion.”
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