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Wed, Feb 04, 2004

NATCA Criticizes White House ATC Budget Cuts

Group Says Cuts "Expose Credibility Gap"

Budget cuts are not only a hot issue for this year's presidential election, but also attract criticism from those in the affected industries, especially aviation.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) claimed Monday's White House budget proposal exposes a major credibility gap in the Bush Administration's aviation policy. The group specifically criticizes the portion of the budget that proposes a 16 percent cut in spending on air traffic control facilities and equipment, while simultaneously touting its modernization plan to drastically add system capacity.

"The White House is saying two entirely different and contradictory things," National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said. "You cannot modernize the system and add capacity by announcing there will be vastly less money to pay for it. No way. It's well past time that we as a nation make aviation infrastructure a national priority. Today's budget is a giant step backward at a time when we must be moving forward."

Carr called the Administration's plan to triple air traffic capacity in the next 15-20 years an "empty election year promise that sounds good but doesn't add up to anything more than fuzzy math."

Carr explained that increasing air travel and a controller staffing crisis, the Administration has fallen dramatically short in hiring an adequate number of controllers that are needed to keep our skies safe.

"Their words simply do not match their actions," he said. "However, while the administration is slashing funds for air traffic control in America, it is taking care to beef up Iraq's system."

"Just last month, the Administration awarded Raytheon Co. a multi-million contract to supply air traffic management systems for airports in Iraq. It is ironic that the Administration recognizes that building and maintaining an air traffic control system is the key to ensuring a safe, secure and economically strong Iraq, but then cuts resources in our own nation," Carr continued.

Carr said The FAA must devote the much-needed resources if we want our nation's air traffic control system to remain the envy of the world. He claims that includes "taking seriously the real staffing challenges facing the agency as air travel increases and controllers retire." He said it also means making sure that modernization projects remain on track.

"Efforts to cut corners on staffing or modernization will ultimately mean cutting corners on safety. And that's bad news for the flying public," Carr said.

"When it comes to spending the taxpayers' money, this Administration seems to think that exploring Mars is more important than protecting the safety of our own air traffic control system here on Earth. We're sure the American public disagrees," he added.

FMI:  www.natca.org

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