President Bush on Monday gave Congress the administration's proposed budget for the next fiscal year. And for the first time in six years, the budget plan does not include any attempts to impose user fees on general aviation or privatize air traffic control.
"We hope this means that we can finally bury the ill-considered proposals to charge pilots for the safety services government should provide," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but with the administration's classification of ATC as a service that could be 'commercialized,' we will have to remain vigilant."
The budget proposal covers fiscal year 2004, which runs from October 1, 2003, to September 30, 2004. But this is just what the administration thinks Congress should spend; it's far from being final. In fact, Congress still hasn't set the budget for this fiscal year, which is half over.
The President proposed funding the FAA at $14 billion, a three-percent increase over what he had proposed for this fiscal year.
Key items that saw increased funding requests include WAAS and OASIS, with requests for $120.3 million and $19.7 million, respectively. OASIS is designed to replace the current antiquated computer system in flight service stations and will make it easier for FSS specialists to call up the information they need to brief pilots.
WAAS (the Wide Area Augmentation System) improves the accuracy, integrity, and reliability of the GPS signal and will provide ILS-like instrument approaches to almost all general aviation airports.
The President emphasized a special focus on safety, requesting $7.1 billion for operation and maintenance of the current air traffic control system, new air traffic control equipment, and development of a replacement air traffic data and telecommunications system.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has moved over to the new Department of Homeland Security, would receive $4.8 billion.