GOP backs off FAA privatization, but Dems seek more

Republicans may be ready to strip air traffic control privatization language from the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, but Democrats still maintain that the original anti-privatization provision passed by the House and Senate must be reinserted for the bill to pass.

Senate Commerce Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Tuesday he will remove any reference to privatization from the conference draft, and that the contentious provision is not worth jeopardizing the entire bill.

"Taking down the whole bill is a huge mistake," said Lott, adding he remains confident the agency will be reauthorized before the Oct. 31 deadline.

Lott refused to say whether the privatization language would simply be stricken from the bill or if the new conference report would include the prohibition passed by the House and Senate.

"We've got to keep all these options open until we get ready to go to conference," he said, indicating a second round of conference talks could occur next week.

Democratic sources and union officials said that if Lott plans only to strip the provision without reinserting the original language, the bill would not prevent future privatization.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said simply removing the provision "still leaves the system vulnerable to privatization. This may seem like an easy fix ... but to think this returns us to the status quo is overly simplistic."

A Democratic source close to the conference said a plan only to strike the language would be "ridiculous" and "a step in the wrong direction." He added that Congress will have to pass another temporary extension of federal aviation programs before Oct. 31 unless Democrats are included in the conference process.

"Nothing's going to happen until they come to us, rather than just putting all these proposals out there to see if they can get the votes," he said.

Meanwhile, House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., is floating a proposal that would shift command of the air traffic control workforce to the military. Such a move would then prevent air traffic controllers from joining a union. Mica plans to hold a hearing Nov. 6 to discuss the possibility.

Carr said Mica's idea "recognizes the inherently governmental function of air traffic control, although we believe the military's priority should be military air traffic control, not civilian." He also expressed concern that a military currently fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan may already be spread too thin to take on the responsibility of the domestic air traffic control system.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.