WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) today sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) and the SAC’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) urging them to fully fund the FAA’s Contract Tower Program.
In the letter, the Senators wrote: “As you finalize negotiations on the fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we urge you to include language ensuring full and dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“In response to mandatory sequestration cuts in 2013, FAA proposed to eliminate funding for 149 contract towers in the program, a disproportional cut that far exceeded the reductions to most areas of the agency’s budget. If implemented, this dramatic cut and the closure of the identified towers would have increased traffic at the remaining contract and FAA-operated towers and hindered the safety and integrity of general aviation operations.
“The contract tower program is one of the FAA’s most cost-effective programs. Contract towers handle approximately 28% of the nation’s air traffic control tower operations but they account for only 14% of the FAA’s total tower operations budget. Additionally, the average contract tower operates at one-third the cost of a federal control tower, though it is held to the same standard of excellence.”
To read the full text of the letter, click here.
Inhofe has been fighting to keep the Contract Tower Program fully funded since the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced in March 2013 that it would be closing 149 of the then-251 FAA contract control towers as a result of sequestration budget cuts.
On April 17, he cosponsored the Protect Our Skies Act (S. 687) that would protect the contract tower program and prohibit the DOT from closing any contract towers from FY 2013 to FY 2014.
On May 3, Inhofe and 41 Senate colleagues sent a letter to then-DOT Sec. Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta urging the agencies to stop the planned tower closures after passage of the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 that provided the agencies flexibility to end FAA civilian furloughs and fund the contract tower program.
On May 10, Inhofe spoke to LaHood, and again urged him to use the authority of the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 to keep the contract towers open. Later that day, LaHood announced that he would use his authority to prevent any of the contract towers from being closed.