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Sat, Mar 20, 2010

Babbitt Defends NextGen Funding In FY2011 Budget Request

Administrator Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee

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 2010."

"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 ready.

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."

FMI: http://appropriations.house.gov/Subcommittees/sub_tranurb.shtml, www.faa.gov

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