ATM Modernization, Commercial

FAA Authorization Key to NextGen

By Tish Drake | February 10, 2011
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FAA is ready to demonstrate a "strong business case for our major initiatives," notably the Next Generation Air Transportation System, and that effort would greatly benefit from the reauthorization of the agency's funding, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told a House subcommittee this week.

In front of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, Babbitt told lawmakers the agency is taking a "hard look at how we operate" and is implementing changes to improve efficiency and ensure the success of many NextGen programs. These operational efficiencies will speed the implementation of various NextGen programs, including automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), performance-based navigation and surface management, he said.

"This dynamic period in aviation coincides with a time of great economic challenges. That is why I feel very passionately that the FAA must demonstrate the strong business case for our major initiatives, and there is no greater example than NextGen. We need to demonstrate the operational and fiscal benefits to encourage widespread participation," Babbitt said in a prepared statement to the subcommittee.

The House subcommittee, part of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, began work this week on the long-delayed FAA Reauthorization. Since 2007 when the last comprehensive legislation expired, there have been 17 extensions. "While there has not been a gap in the authorization of FAA’s programs, there is always uncertainty about the passage of the next extension," Babbitt said. "We can no longer afford to operate in a continued state of uncertainty."

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) last month indicated passage of a FAA reauthorization was a priority for the committee. He reiterated that on Tuesday saying he hoped to have a final bill on President Obama's desk "as soon as possible."

At the same time, the Senate is beginning work on its version of the reauthorization. Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced a FAA Reauthorization bill in January. This week, the bill passed the Senate Finance committee. That version of the bill, which will now become an amendment to Rockefeller's bill, would create an air traffic control system modernization account in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund that would receive $400 million per year “for expenditures related to modernization and implementation” of NextGen.

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