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Senators Introduce The Dependable Air Service Act To Stop ATC Furloughs
By Mike Mitchell

April 25, 2013 - Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced the Dependable Air Service Act.

The legislation would give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the flexibility to transfer funds between accounts in order to abate air traffic controller furloughs and avert mounting passenger delays and flight cancellations at America’s airports. 

In addition, the bill would give the Department of Transportation (DOT), which administers the FAA, the authority to move funds if necessary from other areas of the DOT budget to the FAA to prevent delays. 

The FAA already has authority to move 2 percent of its operational budget without congressional approval, and 5 percent with congressional approval, the senators said. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has indicated that this flexibility is not sufficient to address the problems, so this legislation provides any additional flexibility he may need by having access to the DOT budget. DOT’s total budget for 2013 is $72 billion, of which $19 billion is discretionary funding. 

“Clearly, there is room in the DOT discretionary accounts to mitigate some of the $206 million reduction to air traffic controllers,” Hoeven said. “America’s economy runs on transportation, including air travel, and delays like we’re seeing this week are disrupting commerce and causing real inconvenience for travelers. Our bill addresses the issue directly and in a bipartisan way by giving the secretary of transportation the flexibility he needs to prioritize his budget and put air traffic controllers back on the job for America’s traveling public.” 

“Air traffic controllers are critical to ensuring families and business travelers can get to their destinations safely and efficiently,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation will give the FAA the flexibility it needs to keep air traffic controllers working to keep passengers safe, prevent flight delays, and make sure our aviation system can continue to be the strongest in the world.” 



Portman said “the sequester is the wrong way to address our out-of-control deficits, and I remain disappointed that legislation I supported to give the Administration the flexibility to target spending reductions and make cuts with a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver didn’t pass the Senate. It is unfortunate that the FAA has refused to use existing flexibility in its operational budget. It is even more disappointing that they have refused to ask Congress for additional flexibility, despite clear bipartisan support for a more nuanced approach to these cuts that doesn’t leave passengers and pilots stranded. By giving DOT transfer authority to shift funds from the general DOT budget over to the FAA, this commonsense, bipartisan measure will ease the burden on those traveling and ensure that our pilots and passengers do not bear the brunt of the cuts.” 

“In our vast state, Alaskans rely on air travel to get around more than anywhere else, underscoring the need for more flexibility in the FAA’s budget. This bill provides a critical fix that will allow air traffic controllers to get back to their posts,” said Begich. “While we need a balanced approach to our budget and must enforce spending cuts, we must also be responsible in how we administer them so that we are taking care of traveling families in Alaska and across the country.” 

Senator Ayotte said “it’s wrong for the traveling public to suffer because of political gamesmanship in Washington. While the FAA already has the authority to avoid these furloughs through alternative savings, this bipartisan legislation provides extra assurance against excessive delays and flight disruptions.” 

“This legislation will ensure that the FAA will be able to keep vital air traffic controllers in their seats despite recent mandatory reductions to the DOT budget,” Risch said. “Giving Secretary LaHood the flexibility that he needs to keep air traffic controllers on the job is the right thing to do and I am hopeful that this legislation will result in immediate results.” 

“American travelers and businesses shouldn’t have to take the hit for the incompetence and shocking lack of management at the FAA and the DOT,” said Coats. “It is inexcusable that the FAA and the DOT failed to plan accordingly and refused to use existing flexibility to minimize the impact on travelers. This legislation will help protect the traveling public by providing the DOT with even more flexibility to prioritize its budget something it should have been doing all along.” 

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association applauds the bipartisan efforts of Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and others who have introduced the Dependable Air Service Act. “Three days of furloughs for the nation’s air traffic controllers have proven to be just as disruptive as anticipated. Even with relatively clear weather, there have been more than 5,000 flight delays over the past three days (according to FAA data), double the amount for the same time frame one year ago. It’s now clear that these furloughs are needlessly disrupting air travel and should be rolled back at once.  

“This legislation will give the FAA the transfer authority they need to halt the furloughs of air traffic controllers and allow the world’s safest, most efficient airspace system to once again operate at full capacity. We urge swift approval of this measure so that controllers can return to work full time and passengers and carriers can operate without the threat of unnecessary delays”.

The U.S. Travel Association released a new analysis of the cost of flight delays resulting from announced Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughs of air traffic control personnel in response to budget sequestration. 

Based on FAA’s assessment that 6,700 flights per day across the United States could be delayed as a result of personnel furloughs, U.S. Travel applied its well-developed economic model to estimate that this level of ongoing flight delays could cost the U.S. $9.3 billion in lost economic output directly associated with travelers’ spending between April and October 1, when the new fiscal year begins. Total tax revenue losses would amount to $1.4 billion ($775 million to the federal government and $644 million to state and local governments). Worse, sequestration-related delays could jeopardize an estimated 83,400 American jobs. These estimates do not include the operational costs borne by airlines.

“Travel has led U.S. economic recovery and supports one out of eight American jobs. Throttling this engine of growth by disrupting air travel makes no sense,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We remain deeply concerned about predicted air travel delays, and we urge the FAA to insulate critical air traffic control personnel from sequestration-driven furloughs. 

“We also urge Congress to enact a longer-term solution by swiftly passing legislation that ensures the smooth functioning of America’s vital air travel system. U.S. Travel supports the recently introduced bipartisan ‘Dependable Air Service Act of 2013’, led by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and the ‘Essential Services Act of 2013’ introduced by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).”

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the largest airline pilot union in the world, is advocating the passage of the Dependable Air Service Act. “The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l strongly supports the Dependable Air Service Act, introduced today by Senators Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Hoeven (R-N.D.) as part of a bipartisan group. This piece of legislation will allow the FAA to transfer funds between areas in the Department of Transportation budget. 

“It will also help mitigate the delays that passengers have been experiencing in the last few days. These delays and the subsequent passenger discontent could have deep and long-term effects on the aviation industry and the economy as a whole. We urge the speedy passage and implementation of this bill, so that our partners in aviation safety and security, the furloughed air traffic controllers, can be brought back to the control towers as quickly as possible.”

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