May 18, 2015 - Every few years, Congress is required to enact legislation that sets the FAA’s priorities and authorizes its funding. The current law was passed in 2012 and expires at the end of September. Congress goes into the summer debating not only the FAA budget, but also how the agency should be organized.
Many ideas are being discussed, from continuing with the status quo, to privatizing or corporatizing the air traffic system, to privatizing the entire FAA. Buried within that debate are divisions over funding levels, revenue collection methods, who shoulders the burden, and whether funds are well spent. One thing is clear: funding the FAA and our air traffic system is a struggle in an environment where budgets are not passed and the agency does not know from month-to-month whether it can continue operations, plan, issue contracts, and execute large-scale programs.
That dysfunction sparks debate over whether the FAA should even be funded within the federal budget. Corporatization and privatization might sound appealing. A significant risk is that the funds to operate the FAA and/or air traffic system still have to come from somewhere; if not the federal budget, then directly from system users. With the discussions not limited to the air traffic system but to the entire FAA, this might mean more than new ATC user fees. There is the potential threat of charges for every function the agency performs, many of which pilots and aircraft owners are required by regulation to use.
It is unclear the degree of possible change that is coming, if any. Given the very short time remaining before the end of the fiscal year, it is difficult to envision a massive overhaul of the FAA or ATC system in that time, but anything is possible. If the debate continues past September, it could mean a morass of short-term continuing budget resolutions that have previously been so disruptive to the system.
EAA is listening intently to all sides of the debate. We’re engaging with key policy-influencers and decision-makers in Washington to ensure that our interests as customers and stakeholders of the FAA and ATC system are heard and carefully considered. It is too early to tell what direction is taking shape, but EAA will keep you informed and look out for the best interests of those who enjoy and love personal and recreational aviation.