March 14, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The Senate is currently debating the continuing resolution for the fiscal year 2013 budget and AOPA is working with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to help find supporters for his amendment that would preserve the FAA Contract Tower Program (CTP), which is being threatened by automatic sequestration cuts.
In a March 12 letter to senators, AOPA President Craig Fuller urged them to support Moran’s amendment which would avert a serious potential impact on general aviation safety, emergency medical operations, law enforcement, small businesses, agriculture, and more caused by mandatory sequestration cuts in the FAA budget.
Fuller cited a March 12 letter he sent to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta that urged him to halt proposed sequestration cuts that will disproportionately affect the safety and integrity of GA operations. “There are 251 towers in the contract tower program and according to the FAA’s current plan, with 189 scheduled for closure, the program faces a 75 percent reduction—well more than the five percent in cuts affecting other portions of the FAA budget,” he wrote. “If CTP was a line item in the FAA budget, which it is not, it would be subject to a $6.5 million reduction rather than the $45 million to $50 million cut currently being contemplated.”
Sen. Moran’s amendment would level the playing field and subject the CTP to the same 5-percent reduction, thus lessening the impacts stated above, Fuller continued. “This amendment does not ask for additional money for aviation. Instead, it gives the FAA the flexibility to find savings in unobligated accounts.”
Fuller called the CTP one of the most cost-effective and successful programs in the history of the agency. “Contract towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower operations in the United States, but account for just 14 percent of the FAA’s total tower operations budget,” he wrote. “On average, a contract tower operates at one-third the cost of a federal control tower while achieving the same high level of safety. For these reasons alone, it is illogical to dismember this program in a budget reduction scenario. Savings can be found from unobligated sources.”
AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton shared Fuller’s letter with Senate GA Caucus members as well as all senators. Also, AOPA encouraged senators to co-sponsor Moran’s amendment.
“The message to Congress is that the CTP is a bipartisan issue, with contract towers being slated for closure in many states,” said Lorraine Howerton. “Senator Moran has found a logical solution and mounted a bipartisan effort to suspend these cuts that disproportionately target the contract towers. We will continue to work with the Senate on this important matter.”
A similar letter from Fuller was also sent to all members of the House GA Caucus to keep them informed of AOPA’s efforts as the House may have to consider the solution raised in Moran’s amendment as well.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.