The House Science and Technology Committee today held a hearing to continue its close oversight of the Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative known as NextGen and to explore key issues related to the interagency Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), the organization responsible for planning and coordinating the project.
"The nation's air traffic management system is fundamental to our economy and our quality of life and NextGen must not be allowed to falter," said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX). "It is vitally important that there is accountability both at the FAA and among federal partners, and that roles and responsibilities are clearly articulated.
"So long as there is clarity in the management of NextGen, and a well-understood and sustainable research, development and implementation program, I am confident we will succeed."
Congress passed legislation in 2003 calling for the creation of the JPDO, and charged it with planning for, and coordinating the research and development of a next generation air transportation system. The rationale for Congress' action was clear - congestion in and around our nations' airports was reaching gridlock, resulting in significant economic losses to carriers, severely inconveniencing large numbers of passengers, and threatening the vitality of our economy. It was estimated that demand for airline services would triple by the year 2025, and absent a comprehensive modernization program, future economic growth could be jeopardized.
Congress recognized that integrating new, automated features into a nationwide network of communications, navigation and surveillance systems, is a huge challenge, and the future system must also allow for more efficient routings to minimize delays and conserve fuel.
Hall concluded, saying that "Through the focused leadership of the Federal Aviation Administration, the JPDO, its federal partners, and industry, these challenges will be met."
The FAA also recently realigned its NextGen activities and modified JPDO's position and status within the FAA. The agency added a Senior Vice President for NextGen and Operations Planning to the Air Traffic Organization (ATO).
Today's hearing gave the newly appointed Senior Vice President, Ms. Victoria Cox, an opportunity to explain how this realignment gives the FAA "a clear decision-maker and a distinct line of authority on issues relating to NextGen."
The Committee also heard from the following witnesses: Dr. Gerald L. Dillingham, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office; Mr. Calvin L. Scovel III, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation; Dr. Paul G. Kaminski, Chairman and CEO, Technovation Inc.; and Professor Ian A. Waitz, PARTNER Director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.