FAA Reauthorization top priority for new Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reauthorization of the FAA is one of the main concerns for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House of Representatives, according to its new chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).

The FAA has been operating on a series of short-term extensions since 2007. The last full authorization for the agency was passed in 2003 when Mica was also committee chairman. Two Congresses between his chairmanships were unable to get agreement with the Senate on several issues, even though both Houses were controlled by Democrats.

Mica says a top priority of his committee in the 112th Congress is a fiscally responsible reauthorization of the nation’s aviation programs that improves the air transportation system for the good of the economy and which creates jobs. In line with this goal, he says the committee will “conduct rigorous oversight” of NextGen (the Next Generation Air Transportation System), the multi-billion dollar modernization project that includes replacing ground-based radar with satellite-based surveillance, redesigning approach and departure routes, and causing users of the system to replace aircraft avionics. He adds that the committee will work to ensure that the NextGen program is implemented in an efficient and cost-effective manner, and that taxpayers’ money is not wasted through a poorly managed program.

Another area affecting aviation where Mica’s committee will be active is oversight of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). He said TSA was intended to be a lean agency with the flexibility to respond to threats. “Instead it has grown from a modestly sized pre-9/11 force of 16,500 private airport screeners into a massive bureaucracy of more than 60,000.”

The committee is continuing to monitor the programs and performance of TSA, working to reform and reduce the size of the bureaucracy, supporting a risk-based approach to security to maximize the effectiveness of limited resources. This, he says, means seeking ways to improve the agency’s ability to detect threats, an approach that could mean for general aviation less government intrusion and more reliance on GA’s own security measures.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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