Accelerated FAA Modernization Will Suffer Under Stopgap Funding, Says Agency Head
A full year continuing resolution would hamper needed tech upgrades, according to the FAA's top official.
The acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration told lawmakers this week that efforts to speed up modernization of key national airspace systems would suffer under a full-year continuing resolution.
"A full year CR would really cause harm at the FAA across multiple areas," Acting Administrator Billy Nolen told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.
The U.S. aviation industry is already facing the prospect of reducing the number of scheduled flights at key airports during the busy summer travel season because of staffing shortages among air traffic controllers. Nolen told lawmakers that a stopgap budget would mean the agency "would be unable to increase hiring of air traffic controllers to meet our standards."
Nolen added that, "we would also be unable to deliver on accelerating the pace of modernization that's been talked so much about including our NOTAM system as well as our telecommunication infrastructure."
The Biden administration's budget request for 2024 includes $115 million in new money to accelerate National Airspace Modernization, and lists NOTAM as a target for quick upgrades.
A NOTAM outage caused by a contractor error led to a two-hour ground stop of U.S. air traffic earlier this year. In oversight hearings following that event, House and Senate lawmakers have pressed for more rapid modernization of the National Airspace Systems including NOTAM to prevent future outages.
The Biden administration is seeking $19.8 billion for the FAA in 2024, a $784 million increase over the previous year. The 2024 budget request supports hiring and training for 1,800 new air traffic controllers.