Are controllers out, bureaucrats in under sequester?

February 28, 2013

The 1.2 million people who work in the aviation industry, and the pilots who fly the aircraft they build may soon have an ample record to draw on to determine who their allies and adversaries were in Washington, D.C., as the March 1 deadline to avoid billions of dollars in mandatory federal budget cuts loomed.

The cuts would include $600 million from the second half of the FAA’s fiscal 2013 budget—and would force control tower closings and furloughs in the ranks of air traffic controllers, starting in April. But concern about the seeming deadlock moved aviation-safety supporters to offer alternatives, or emphasize the possible damage sequestration could do—especially to workers in the heartland.

‘Lower priority jobs’ still open

With cutbacks looming for border enforcement, defense, and food inspectors, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) questioned why the federal government was continuing to solicit applicants for “numerous lower priority jobs”—of which he gave 10 examples in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Not filling the jobs advertised in those vacancy announcements could save “as much as $1.4 million that could be redirected towards more essential jobs being targeted for sequestration savings,” he wrote.

“Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a (Transportation Security Administration) screener, or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?” Coburn wrote.

Workers in pain

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is a General Aviation Caucus member who has made it his mission to counter widespread misconceptions about GA and its role in the nation’s economy.

In a Feb. 25 letter, he excoriated the Obama administration for a series of recent statements suggesting that the aviation industry benefited from aircraft depreciation-schedule “loopholes” as the sequester deadline approached.

“Not only have your efforts destroyed jobs and economic growth in South Central Kansas, but the claim is also intellectually dishonest. No matter how often you and your staff say it—there is no such thing as a ‘corporate jet tax loophole,’” he wrote, reviewing the rule’s legislative history.

The only people who would feel the pain of targeting the aviation industry are “the 1.2 million workers, many of whom are union members, who make a living building and servicing these aircraft,” Pompeo wrote.

“Congressman Pompeo’s efforts in defense of general aviation and aviation jobs have been unwavering,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.