WASHINGTON, D.C. — The aviation industry and the government must come together and answer the question of what kind of aviation system is wanted and how it can be financed, FAA Administrator Michel Huerta told the Washington Aero Club.
The industry has many segments with different interests and each is pushing its own agenda, he said, but sequester and the government 16-day shutdown showed that a comprehensive view of priorities and stable funding are needed. Recognizing that each segment of the industry promotes that which is most important to its constituency, there are still broad priorities that can be agreed on, he noted. Industry and government must work together on the details of how to achieve these priorities, he added.
Funding is one of the important areas to be faced. He said the aviation trust fund pays only about two-thirds of the FAA’s budget and the agency is consistently asked to do more with less.
“I think we need to ask ourselves — and you our stakeholders — whether we really want to, and need to, do everything the way we’ve always done it,” he said.
Huerta told the audience of primarily aviation industry representatives that the recent continuing resolution provides the FAA with an annual rate of $100 million more than last year’s budget and is an acknowledgement that cuts the agency is facing have serious consequences on both the FAA workforce and the sustainability of the system.
The agency still must cut hundreds of millions of dollars this year under sequester, he noted. In addition, the agency is facing a $5 billion backlog in deferred maintenance of facilities and equipment.
“We’re going to have to have a thoughtful conversation about what it makes sense for the FAA to continue doing, and what we might stop doing, or do differently,” he said.
Aviation has done much to tie the country together, “linking thousands of runways, landing strips, and terminals in major cities and rural areas,” he said.
The administrator confirmed that work on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) stopped or was reduced during the government shutdown and a backlog of work piled up. During the shutdown, the FAA issued about 1,000 stop-work orders, he noted.