WASHINGTON, D.C. — 42 U.S. Senators have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta calling on the agency to stop the planned closure of 149 contract towers.
In the letter, the lawmakers highlight that the bill passed in the Senate on April 25 and signed into law by the President to end furloughs at the FAA provides enough budget flexibility to also fully fund contract towers currently scheduled for closure this summer.
In the letter, the Senators wrote: “While ending furloughs for tens of thousands of FAA personnel is a common sense decision due to the impact that flight delays had on the traveling public, we are equally concerned about the status of the contract tower program. The contract tower program is a vital public safety and economic development asset for dozens of communities – many of them rural – in every corner of the country. These municipalities depend on the contract tower program to provide commercial and general aviation services, jobs, and in many cases, support for a variety of air ambulance facilities. The disruption that the combined closure of 149 contract towers would have starting June 15th would certainly go against the recently enacted legislation, which allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to ‘prevent reduced operations and staffing of the FAA during FY 2013 to ensure a safe and efficient air transportation system.’”
“The FAA’s budget has more than doubled since 1996,” noted Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) “Sequestration only reduces the FAA’s budget by 5%, bringing it down to 2010 levels. Now that the FAA furloughs have been canceled due to this new law, I hope the FAA will have the common sense to also find a solution to end the planned closures of its contract towers. I have spoken personally with Ray LaHood about the four towers in Oklahoma that are at risk of closing this summer. Their essentiality cannot be ignored as it will impact rural economies, emergency services, and even national defense operations. This budgetary crisis – not only for the FAA but for all the federal agencies – could have been solved months ago if the President had not issued a veto threat of my bill with Sen. Pat Toomey that would have granted wide-sweeping flexibility to sequestration cuts this year.”