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Thursday, March 7, 2013

FAA Issues Furlough Notices, Congress Reacts

Woodrow Bellamy III

FAA sent furlough notices to the majority of its 47,000 employees on Tuesday to adjust its operating budget following the automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration that were enacted last week. Most workers will take as many as 11 unpaid days beginning April 7 through Sept. 30.

During a speech Wednesday at the Aviation Forecast and Policy Summit in Washington D.C., FAA Administrator Michael Huerta reiterated his stance that the furloughs were unavoidable due to provisions in the sequester that do not allow flexibility for the budget reductions.

On Thursday, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.) and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking if FAA could find alternative ways to find cost savings.

“A review of FAA spending over the past several years has exposed several areas ripe for belt-tightening at the FAA,” Thune and Shuster wrote. “These areas include, but are not limited to: a yearly travel budget for FAA employees of $179 million; a fleet of 46 aircraft that costs $143 million a year to maintain; a 41 percent, or $3 billion budget increase since 2002, even though domestic flights are down 27 percent from 2000 traffic levels; and clear mismanagement and waste on air traffic control modernization contracts.”

The two lawmakers said FAA has $2.7 billion in “non-personnel operations costs” that should have been examined prior to furloughs being distributed.

In recent weeks, both Huerta and LaHood warned that the furloughs would have to be distributed and air traffic control towers would have to be shut down if the sequester was enacted.

FAA’s budget must be reduced by more than $620 million through Sept. 30—the end of the federal government’s fiscal year—as a result of the sequester. More

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