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Wed, Dec 20, 2006

FAA May Freeze ATC Hiring If FY2006 Budget Extended

Says It Needs More Money In '07

Responding to a proposal by incoming Democrat lawmakers that would cap its funding for fiscal year 2007 at FY2006 levels, the Federal Aviation Administration says it may freeze hiring of air traffic controllers and technicians -- despite claims by controllers that many facilities are already severely understaffed.

The Gannett News Service reports the response came in a December 14 memo written by Eugene Juba, senior vice president of finance for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization.

"In anticipation of the impact that could have on our finances, we must take further steps to reduce spending while still maintaining effective services to our customers," wrote Juba.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown stressed no decisions have been made, although she acknowledged the hiring freeze is an option. Last year's funding levels have been extended only through February 15, she added.

If enacted, the freeze would go into effect March 31. The FAA already implemented a hiring freeze on all other positions.

News of the memo comes as many have questioned the FAA's assertions that ATC staffing is generally at acceptable levels. Not helping the situation is the fact approximately 70 percent of current controllers are eligible to retire through 2015... and many are opting for retirement earlier than the FAA anticipated.

"They need to be ramping up hiring, not shutting it off halfway through a fiscal year," said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.congress.gov

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