Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that keeps the FAA, and other government agencies, funded through the end of the fiscal year in September 2015. The funding bill, which avoids a government shutdown, passed the Senate over the weekend, following passage by the House earlier in the week.
The omnibus includes $12.4 billion for the FAA, approximately $17 million less than the FAA’s 2014 funding level. The bill also covers full operation of the air traffic control system, as well as $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, which funds infrastructure repairs and improvements at airports, including general aviation airports.
The agreement also includes a provision that allows small airports to continue contributing five percent of the total cost for unfinished phased projects that were underway prior to the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
The contract tower program also will continue under the omnibus spending bill, with $144.5 million, including $9.5 million for the contract tower cost-sharing program.
Other ongoing programs also will be preserved. The agreement includes $254.7 million, an increase of $7.5 million above the budget request, to advance the use of ADS-B for air traffic control separation services, support the collection and validation of surveillance data, and help assess the impact on FAA's oceanic automation system. The FAA is directed to make an investment decision regarding ADS-B within 30 days to address the concern that the agency's absence from the program is undermining its status as a global safety and technology leader.
The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) for GPS will be funded at $98.6 million, a slight decrease from the budget request of $103 million.
Also included is $6 million for continuing research and testing of alternatives to leaded avgas, up from $5.7 million requested by the president.
The agreement also includes $14.9 million for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research, an increase of $6 million above the budget request. Within this increase, $5 million is provided for a new center of excellence on UAS and $2 million is provided to help meet FAA's UAS research goals of system safety and data gathering, aircraft certification, command and control link challenges, control station layouts and certification, sense and avoid, and environmental impacts.
The spending package also includes language regarding the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which became law in November 2013. Specifically, FAA is expected to use the resources as requested in the budget request to support the completion of a final rule that advances the safety and continued development of small airplanes, as required by the act, which set a 2015 deadline for the reform of aircraft certification rules.