Administrator Testifies Before House Appropriations
FAA administrator Randy Babbitt reportedly faced some tough
questions about funding for NextGen when he testified Thursday
before the U.S. House Transportation, Housing, and Urban
Development subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The
committee was hearing the FAA's FY2011 budget request.
"NextGen is needed to improve efficiency, create additional
capacity, and provide enhancements to safety and environmental
performance," Babbitt said in his prepared remarks. "NextGen is not
a single piece of equipment or a program or a system that will
instantly transform the air transportation system. NextGen is a
multi-component and evolutionary process. Elements of it are
already providing improvements for passengers and operators. When
fully implemented, NextGen will enhance safety, reduce delays and
provide benefits for the environment and the economy through
reductions in carbon emissions, fuel consumption, and noise. The FY
2011 budget request provides a total of $1.14 billion in support of
NextGen, a nearly 32 percent increase over the amount enacted in FY
"This budget allows us to execute our plans for controller and
safety staffing, research and development, and capital investments,
further enhancing aviation safety while we implement the aviation
system of the future," Babbitt (pictured) continued. "The budget
also supports the recent contract settlement with our air traffic
controllers. We are pleased to have a contract in place and look
forward to ushering in the future of aviation in full partnership
with all of our employees."
The online publication NextGov reports that Subcommittee Chair
John Oliver (D-MA) expressed some doubt. "It's hard to see what the
cumulative result of (NextGen) is yet because it is so complex and
comprehensive," he said "Early implementation efforts have been
hampered by unclear roles. . . . Has there been any progress in
defining (those roles)?"
Hank Krakowski, COO for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, told
the committee that the ERAM technology that was glitchy in a test
in Salt Lake City was taken offline, but is fundamental to the
system and needs to be deployed correctly. He said the rollout
schedule won't force the agency to deploy the system before it's
Babbitt said the implementation of NextGen will
impact a broad range of aviation issues, from improved air traffic
control and more and safer instrument landings through Localizer
Performance Vertical (LPV) approaches, to environmental impact.
"The FY 2011 budget request reflects our commitment to the
implementation and deployment of innovative NextGen solutions,"
Babbitt said. "The application of these critical twenty-first
century technologies represents a pivotal shift that will transform
aviation. NextGen will yield immediate results for a safer America
while maximizing efficiencies to meet future demands. NextGen will
ultimately reduce taxpayer and industry costs while safeguarding
our world’s precious environment and resources. We are
working in cooperation with industry to achieve a shared vision,
leveraging powerful technologies and setting new standards for the
future of global aviation."
"We understand that these times demand cautious and
well-considered fiscal policy," he concluded. "The FAA is grateful
that Congress recognizes our mission as a national priority."