House Republicans Plan To Cut FAA Budget Despite Safety Concerns
Early Wednesday morning, the controller manning the tower at Reagan National Airport fell asleep. For the second time in as many years, the tower went silent, forcing two jetliners to land without radio contact with the airport. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded to the incident by immediately ordering an examination of scheduling issues at the nation's airports. "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical airspace," he said.
The incident comes just as the House is set to take up a four-year reauthorization of the FAA's budget, which calls for scaling back the FAA's funding to 2008 levels. According to Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee's subcommittee on aviation, the proposal "could require the agency to furlough hundreds of safety-related employees." Former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who served from 2002 to 2007, has said that "The prospect is really devastating to jobs and to our future, if we really have to roll back [to 2008 levels] and stop NextGen in its tracks."
Republicans have defended their draconian budget cuts by arguing that deficit spending is hurting the security of the nation. Many of their cuts, however, from border and port security to the tsunami warning system and now to the FAA's operational budget, actually put the lives of Americans at risk.
The Republican-proposed funding bill also contains what Costello has called a "poison pill." As Brian Beutler reported earlier in the month, "The FAA reauthorization bill winding its way through the House would re-establish old rules, which say that if a worker doesn't vote in a unionization election, their heads will still be counted as 'no' votes."