Huerta repeats sequester warning for NextGen

Despite the imminent release of the US Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen Implementation Plan – delayed by final touches to the President’s 2014 budget – the agency’s chief has warned of the impact of a decade worth of budget cuts.

Speaking before the NextGen Advisory Committee earlier this month, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency had conducted an initial assessment of how a long-term ‘sequester’ would impact the seven programmes that will deliver new capabilities for all phases of flight by 2018.

“The budget profile even under sequester would provide the capital funding required to meet most of those commitments. But, to make this happen we must have the operations funds to maintain our active workforce participation in key activities like procedures design, onsite testing, and training. And, if we are not able to keep the workforce engagement, we simply will not be able to meet all of our current commitments and the associated timelines,” warned Huerta.

The US aviation chief said that the decision to move funds from the Airport Improvement Programme is not a long-term solution but only a short-term fix that has only resolved the issue of controller lay-off until September.

Even so, he noted that the FAA was able to restart the Metroplex work in Washington, D.C., Northern Texas, Charlotte, Northern and Southern California, Houston and Atlanta that had been put on hold. “As you know these projects are highly collaborative and must include our operational air traffic control personnel. Furloughs under the sequester required us to recall air traffic controllers and managers back to their duty stations,” said Huerta.

Keep in mind however,” he warned, “that the sequester is still in place and that the FAA must still cut a total of $637 million from our budget by September 30.”

“We’ve also cut our spare parts inventory, which may increase restoration time during outages and reduce system efficiency. And as an interim measure, we’re not training new air traffic controllers or technicians to maintain and operate new technologies, which has led to a shut down of a large part of the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City,” he said.

 

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