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Monday, February 25, 2013

Republican Lawmakers Refute Impact of Sequester on Air Travel

Woodrow Bellamy III

Republican lawmakers are refuting top Obama administration officials’ claims that sequestration will heavily impact the nation’s air transportation system.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday the $600 million reduction to the FAA's operating budget would lead to the closure of more than 100 air traffic control towers in the United States. These cuts are part of the $85 billion across-the-board sequestration spending cuts set to go into effect this week.

"We are beginning discussions with our unions to likely close over 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year," LaHood said Friday. 

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.), and House Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) released a joint statement in response to LaHood’s claims Friday.

“We are disappointed by the administration creating alarm about sequestration’s impact on aviation,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The three Republican lawmakers called LaHood’s statements Friday an “exaggeration,” and are not supported by “any real financial data.”

"The agency is well positioned to absorb spending reductions without compromising the safety or efficiency of the National Airspace System," the three lawmakers added.

According to Shuster, Lobiondo and Thune, FAA’s annual budget has increased by almost $3 billion over the last decade and the agency spends about $500 million on consultants and $200 million on supplies and travel annually.

In 2012 the FAA Modernization and Reform Act provided the agency with $63.6 billion for funding between 2012-2015, however LaHood claims that the way the sequester cuts are being administered will force the agency to furlough its controllers.

“This is a huge cut. It’s a billion dollars,” LaHood said Sunday on "Meet the Press." “In the end, the largest amount of money is in the personnel area, and our controllers represent 15,000 of the 47,000 people at FAA. The point is that the sequester doesn’t allow us to move money around, that’s the difference here. If we could shift money around, certainly we would do that, these arevery tough decisions.” More

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