White House calls for ATO spin off by 2021

The budgetary blueprint for the United States has placed ATC reform at the top of the agenda for the new administration.

The White House’s fiscal year 2018 budget features proposals for a non-profit, independent corporation as the best model to address the ‘quickly evolving needs’ of the nation’s airspace users and deliver air traffic services in a ‘safe, efficient and innovative’ manner from 2021.

While an early budget outline issued in March demonstrated support for spinning off ATC from FAA, the full budget proposal released on May 23 offers more detail to what is emerging as a major policy area for the administration.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) saluted the legislative attempt to spin off the FAA Air Traffic Organization last year by House of Representatives transportation and infrastructure committee chairman Bill Shuster as an ‘excellent starting point’ for discussing ATC reform.

“This transformative undertaking will create an innovative corporation that can more nimbly respond to the demand for air traffic services, all while reducing taxes and government spending,” it stated. “The parts of FAA that will remain with the government will retain important aviation safety regulatory activities.”

“The government will retain its role in regulating aviation safety, as it does for all other modes of transportation,” stated the OMB in the budgetary blueprint, adding that the new entity should be governed by a board of directors that represents all users of the National Airspace System.

Separating ATC from the FAA will save the US federal government more than $10 billion annually and would be funded by ‘a fee structure that allows aviation users to pay the cost of the services to the air navigation service provider’ according to the OMB, describing this as a more efficient funding model than the current mix of excise taxes.

The move would raise the deficit $46 billion over the next decade due to projected growth although the OMB argued that the actual spending difference would be smaller at about $20 billion.

The House transportation and infrastructure committee is expected to hold one more hearing FAA reauthorisation in the coming weeks. The current FAA authorisation expires September 30 and Congress is expected to consider legislation during the summer months.

Last week, the committee held its fifth hearing on FAA reauthorization issues, the first one focused on air traffic control (ATC) reform where committee chairman Bill Shuster repeated his support for fundamental ATC reform.

Congress will now use the president’s budget as a starting point for writing its own bills. Since Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House, there is a better chance this year that the final bill will look something like the president’s outline than there is in times when the White House and Congress are held by different parties.

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