Some question FAA’s selection of sequestration cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sequestration hasn’t caused the sky to fall in Washington, but there are indications some efforts are being made to pull it down to meet the dire threats of disasters that have been put forth.

The FAA notified employees of intended furloughs of up to 11 work days beginning about April 7. Contract control towers are threatened to be shut. FAA-operated control towers might be put on shorter hours and staff reduced at many. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, which has two towers, might have one closed, stopping operations on two runways. Maintenance workers might be furloughed.

But will any of this really happen? If the FAA is anything like the Agriculture Department, any cuts will be those having the direst effects. A leaked memo from a regional director to his offices said however any reduction in spending is made “you are to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

Even Congress can’t get answers. The chairmen of the Senate and House Aviation Committees are getting stiff-armed. On Feb. 25, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking what route the FAA would take in reducing spending. To date— even after a second letter — no answer has been forthcoming.

They reminded LaHood that since sequestration was signed into law by President Obama on Aug. 2, 2011, little or no planning seems to have taken place at agencies within the DOT. Since August 2012, Congress has been asking DOT and FAA officials for detailed sequestration budget plans, but have received only limited and incomplete information about how sequestration will affect the FAA.

FAA spending over the past few years has shown several areas where belts could be tightened to prevent any cuts in more important places. These include $179 million for FAA employee travel and $143 million a year to maintain a fleet of 46 aircraft. Thune and Shuster say the FAA has $2.7 billion in non-personnel operations costs that should have been examined before furloughs were even considered.

In their latest letter to LaHood, the members of Congress stated: “Since our previous requests for information have gone unanswered, we cannot assume, nor do we believe, that all savings options were explored before the choice was made to furlough employees, close towers, and inconvenience the flying public you are supposed to serve.”

Early reports indicated sequestration would require one or possibly two-day furloughs every pay period — every two weeks. How that prediction turned into 11-day furloughs and massive closures is not known.

Seeing how members of Congress are being rebuffed, this writer doesn’t feel hurt when phone calls to the FAA press office are not returned.


  1. Is the 5% cut only the amount from the general fund or the total FAA budget? The FAA budget last year was 15.9 billion and 11.3 billion is from the AATF (dedicated taxes and fees from fuel tax to airline fees) and 4.5billion from the general fund, this years projection was only 3 billion from the general fund. So my understanding is the budget will be cut only on the general funds, but it seems they are cutting 5% of the total budget.

  2. Ray Ebner says:

    Congress supplies the money for the FAA. If they refuse to provide answers to them as to how they propose to cut their budget, then it is time for the Congress to subpoena the FAA leadership and make them answer in the most direct of ways. Cutting people is the political way to make this appear so very bad for our government. The sequestration is a joke compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars this government wastes.

  3. Actually, cuts should begin at FAA’s corporate jet flight department, where a Gulfstream IV and two Citation Jets, used almost entirely for bureaucrat travel, is supported by close to 30 personnel. Then hit the USCG flight department in the same hangar, where two Gulfstream’s are supported by almost 60 people. If those were flight departments in real life (industry, not government), they’d have both been shut down years ago. Or, at a minimum, consolidated somehow. Can you spell waste, fraud, or abuse?? How about all three??

    • ManyDecadeGA says:

      Ted makes a very valid observation and comment, on the “aircraft use” waste at KDCA’s FAA Hangar Six. The stories of waste and abuse at Hangar 6 are legendary, especially by past US DOT officials. But even that waste pales in comparison to the waste of entire functions in FAA, such as “Flight Inspection”, where the job now could be done better, and perhaps an order of magnitude less expensively, as well as more timely (and only where it need to be done at all), by post processing industry aircraft operations data, and by using satellite observations (as for ROC), instead of having FAA dedicated aircraft flying around globally, turning Jet A into noise, ….as well as tearing up the airspace system while they are flying entirely obsolete “orbits and passes”. The flight inspection fleet additionally could be cut to a fraction of its current size, if it was properly being functionally deployed, only where and when really needed, …and especially if the FAA more expeditiously moved toward use of RNP and GLS, which only would need a tiny fraction of the presently used flight inspection resources and assets. And this doesn’t even count potential savings like the mothballing of their nearly useless multimillion dollar simulators based at OKC, which are mostly used to either re-prove the obvious, or to justify nonsense, based on flawed experiments, which lead to flawed conclusions. If there is some legitimate experiment that needs to be done in simulators… industry, academia, or the OEMs could typically do it better, quicker, more credibly, and vastly less expensively, with industry assets instead of dedicated FAA assets.

  4. ManyDecadeGA says:

    “Never let a good crisis go to waste!” First on the chopping block, ought to be about 45 unnecessary FSSs. Next to go should be about 100 completely unnecessary towers, replaced simply by RCOs, for clearance delivery and interface with overlying airspace, for IFR release and approach flight plan cancellation. Immediately after that, WAAS should be abandoned, as now a $4B totally obsolete and unnecessary system, considering we have SA turned off, 30+ GPS SVs, Galileo on the way, and RNP and Baro VNAV, well established. RNAV using LPV criteria (which wastes critical busy and joint use metro area airspace, with obsolete straight-in angular trapezoid criteria) should be terminated, in favor of using the vastly superior and global standard RNP. Right after that action, the FAA’s ADS-B program should be suspended, until the inappropriate ADS -B mplementation rules are revised, forcing a redesign of ADS-B criteria to take place to match Canada and Australia’s much better ADS-B implementation criteria. This is to positively eliminate the seriously flawed FAA overkilled Accuracy, integrity, and availability stanadards that now incorrectly imply the need for WAAS just to do ADS-B . Then about 50% of FAA FTEs should be permanently shed, out of underperforming, misguided, or obsolete functions at FAA Hqs, or in support divisions, such as AFS-400, AVN, and the FAA Technical Center. Finally the age old yearly renewed “insider awarded contract” to organizations like MITRE CAASD, that actually are harming expeditious evolution of NextGen with exceedingly bad advice (e.g., UAT and ADS-R), ought to be competetively bid, or simply cancelled. Those FAA actions would then finally be making good use of this “crisis” of sequestration.

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