House T&I Chairman Says Panel Will Move Forward on FAA Reform

January 14, 2016

Last week, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster’s (R-PA) office notified committee members that the panel would be moving forward with legislation to reauthorize the programs of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and that the bill will take responsibility for air traffic control away from the FAA and transfer those duties to an independent corporation.

A one-pager sent to T&I members last Friday states that “The Committee’s FAA Reauthorization will establish an independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize ATC operations” and that “An independent, not-for-profit ATC provider will be free of federal budget constraints and procurement rules, and able to borrow necessary resources, in order to purchase and deploy improved ATC technology more quickly and cheaply.”

The timing of the bill’s movement through the House is uncertain, but legislative authority for the Airport and Airway Trust Fund expires on March 31. The House is scheduled to be in recess for the week of February 14-21, so a markup the week before the recess and House floor consideration in the last week of February or the first week of March would not be out of the question.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation chairman John Thune (R-SD) appears to be waiting for the House to pass (or fail to pass) Shuster’s legislation before he unveils his own plan for FAA reauthorization.

Proposals to provide for fundamental reform of air traffic control provision have been floated on Capitol Hill for almost 30 years:

  • 1987 Inouye-Stevens bill to devolve air traffic control to an independent, user-fee supported government corporation.
  • 1995 Clinton Administration proposal to turn air traffic control over to a government-owned, user-fee supported United States Air Traffic Service Corporation.
  • 1999 Clinton Administration proposal to create a user-fee supported performance-based organization within the FAA to handle air traffic control.
  • 2007 Bush Administration proposal to largely eliminate the federal taxes that support air traffic control and replace them with user fees.

As Congress prepares to start debating this issue again, any interested persons should of course bookmark Eno’s FAA Reform Reference Page website. We will be posting any information relating to the Shuster bill as it is released (as we have already posted the one-pager sent by Shuster to committee members last week). We also have linked the following on the webpage:

  • Every available study of FAA structure and financing issues from government entities (GAO, CRS, CBO, and the DOT Inspector General, as well as the now-defunct Office of Technology Assessment) that we could find.
  • Every available study of the ATC reform issue over the last 30 years that we could find from non-governmental entities. (The report of the Eno NexGen Working Group, which wound up endorsing fundamental ATC reform, is first on the list, because, you know, it’s our website. But we are also linking to all of the other papers on the issue, both opposed and in favor, that we can find that are publicly available.)
  • Complete legislative histories of the 2007, 1999, 1995 and 1987 ATC reform proposals, so that interested persons can examine the arguments made for and against such reform proposals in the past.

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