The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing on Sept. 12 to examine delays in the implementation of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic system modernization program.
Witnesses at the hearing included the Department of Transportation's Inspector General Calvin Scovel who delivered an update on the NextGen program that reads much like the last several updates: The agency is making progress but still has challenges to overcome in order to realize the program.
“The FAA has taken important steps toward moving NextGen forward, however transitioning from planning to benefits delivered continues to challenge the agency,” Scovel said.
Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari cited several examples of things the FAA is doing right in his testimony, specifically noting the inroads the agency has made in the Gulf of Mexico with regard to automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). “Air traffic controllers can now see aircraft they couldn’t see before… and more aircraft can fly in a denser area thanks to [equipment on oil platforms],” Porcari said.
Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) tried to pin down Porcari on specific numbers regarding the cuts that face the FAA as a result of the pending sequestration process.
“You’ve had plenty of time, and hopefully your agency is planning both for if sequestration happens or if it doesn’t happen,” Costello said.
Porcari sidestepped Costello’s request and urged Congress to “act quickly” to avoid sequestration.
The Office of Management and Budget is hoping to release a report detailing sequestration impacts government-wide by the end of the week.
The hearing concluded with discussion of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme. The FAA representatives and members of Congress reiterated their disapproval of the program and the EU’s approach, citing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the appropriate place to negotiate emissions reductions.
“The program presents severe legal and policy concerns,” said Porcari. “Other countries agree that [the EUs stance] is inappropriate and the administration will continue to press for negotiation in appropriate venues.”