Senators urge funding to hire air traffic controllers

Seven senators are urging Congress to provide $14 million in fiscal 2005 funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to hire new air traffic controllers.

The bipartisan group, composed of members of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with the FAA's budget, recently sent a letter to the subcommittee's chairman, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and ranking member, Patty Murray, D-Wash., outlining concerns over a projected wave of retirements among controllers.

Subcommittee members requested that funding be provided as part of the fiscal 2005 Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill.

The concern over air traffic controllers, which also was highlighted recently by the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation, stems from the fact that nearly 9,000 controllers, hired in the four years after President Reagan's mass dismissal of striking controllers in 1981, are nearing retirement age. The FAA estimates that nearly half of the controller workforce could retire over the next nine years.

The already daunting task of hiring a large number of employees is complicated by the lengthy training required for controllers, which takes two to four years, the General Accounting Office has reported. The Transportation Department recently reported that the training can take as long as seven years.

In order to be prepared to replace retiring controllers, the FAA will have to pay thousands of trainees as well as soon-to-be retirees. Last year, the agency requested $14 million in fiscal 2004 funding to begin hiring new controllers. That request was denied, and the agency did not renew it for fiscal 2005.

"The FAA requested zero dollars for this," said Doug Church, media relations manager for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "So we took it upon ourselves to go to Congress and try to get their support. And we did." With the subcommittee markup of the Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill coming up, Church said, the senators are emphasizing their belief that "the longer we wait, the worse the problem gets for the flying public."

In the letter, Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Kit Bond, R-Mo., Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said they are "all too aware of the budget constraints facing this Congress," but argued that the looming controller shortage could inconvenience travelers and put them in danger.

DeWine "sees it as a safety issue," said Amanda Flaig, his spokeswoman. "With [the controllers] retiring at a rate faster than they're being hired… it will put a strain on the existing workforce."

Shelby believes the FAA must ensure that "the safest air traffic control system in the world" stays that way, said spokeswoman Virginia Davis.

Church said the letter shows that the proposal to add funding for new controllers has bipartisan support. While NATCA has earned Democratic backing for the funding in the past, he said, gaining Republican support is key to avoiding last year's fate.

"The fact that we have 3 Rs on this letter means that we've got the votes to make this happen," Church said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens at the markup next week."

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

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

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

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