Four months ago, Congress and the Obama administration ended sequester-related furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration by raiding an airport grant fund. With money likely to be similarly tight in fiscal 2014, the FAA Managers Association is pressing the administration to preemptively endorse the same strategy for the upcoming year that begins in barely six weeks.
“Aviation is a key driver of economic activity,” David Conley, the association’s president, wrote in a Tuesday letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Sylvia Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget. “I urge you to act proactively and decisively to avoid a funding shortfall and another disruption at the FAA.”
Congress has not passed any of the dozen spending bills needed to keep the FAA and other agencies operating past September. As a result, lawmakers are mulling approval of a continuing resolution that could keep spending at this year’s post-sequester levels.
For the FAA, that would mean a return to furloughs, Conley said, accompanied by flight disruptions, delays in implementation of the Next Generation air traffic control system and other headaches. Instead, the White House can ask lawmakers to add language to the continuing resolution giving the FAA authority to transfer as much money as needed from the airport fund to avoid furloughs, he said.
After the FAA began furloughing tens of thousands of air traffic controllers and other employees in April, Congress and the White House quickly agreed to shift up to $253 million from the fund to put them back to work full-time.
The managers association, which represents almost 1,500 staff, is also “aggressively scrubbing the FAA’s budget” for other sources of money that can be used to offset furloughs, Louis Dupart, the organization’s executive director, said Wednesday. Foxx and Burwell have not yet responded to Conley’s letter, he said.