Working with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for months, U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo (NJ-02) today applauded the passage of H.R. 658, the "Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization & Reform Act of 2012." The legislation includes a number of provisions benefiting South Jersey and would reauthorize the FAA for four years, preventing another partial shutdown that affected thousands of employees including those at the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township last summer.
"This is outstanding news for the FAA Tech Center, its employees and the entire region. This bill reaffirms the exceptional work being conducted at the Tech Center to modernize the nation's antiquated air traffic control system and will ensure reliable funding for the next four years so that substantial work on NextGen can be completed," said LoBiondo, the only New Jersey Representative on the House Aviation Subcommittee.
"I applaud Rep. LoBiondo's relentless efforts to bring all sides together to pass a multi-year FAA authorization. Modernizing our aviation network through the NextGen project, increasing safety for the flying public, and ensuring thousands of FAA employees along with hundreds of thousands of contractors remain working is a key priority of House Republicans. I appreciate Rep. LoBiondo's hard-work and leadership on this critical bill," said House Speaker John Boehner.
In addition to protecting the jobs of the estimated 1,500 FAA employees and related service providers in South Jersey, LoBiondo was pleased that the multi-year FAA Reauthorization bill included a number of provisions he had sought, such as:
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL MODERNIZATION AND NEXTGEN
$10.9 billion for FAA Facilities & Equipment to accelerate the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which is currently being developed at the FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township. This funding would also enable FAA to make needed repairs and replacement of existing facilities and equipment and also provide for the implementation of high-priority safety-related systems.
Strengthens accountability and oversight of the NextGen program by:
Clarifying new authorities for the FAA to acquire and fund expenses related to the NextGen program;
Directing the Secretary of Transportation to give priority to NextGen specific programs when allocating funds; and,
Establishing timelines and milestones for the FAA to bring NextGen technologies online and requires the FAA to establish performance metrics to meet these goals.
CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
Establishes a Center of Excellence in the research and development of NextGen - Long advocated for by LoBiondo, the FAA Administrator will now have the option to establish a Center of Excellence for NextGen that would bring together professionals at the FAA Technical Center with experts in the aviation industry and academia to research and develop the new technologies that will power the next generation of air travel in the U.S. It also allows the FAA to provide funding to support such activities. If established, the Center of Excellence would build on efforts already underway locally by Atlantic County, the Richard Stockton College, local industry and the FAA Technical Center thus strengthening the NextGen Aviation Research & Technology Park.
GENERAL FUNDING LEVELS
$13.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which distributes formula grants to airports across the country, such as the Atlantic City International Airport, to improve safety and reduce congestion;
$38.4 billion for FAA Operations which includes the daily operating costs and payroll of FAA employees.
After twenty-three extensions and a two-week partial shutdown that affected nearly 4,000 FAA employees nationwide including approximately 650 at the FAA Technical Center in South Jersey, Congress has approved the 4-year reauthorization bill which funds FAA programs through fiscal year 2015.
Since the partial shutdown that began at midnight on July 22, 2011 and ended on August 5, 2011, LoBiondo has aggressively pushed both parties in the House and Senate to come to a multi-year agreement on the FAA's authorization. He joined Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt at a private townhall meeting with employees at the FAA Technical Center. And LoBiondo authored legislation to ensure back-pay for furloughed FAA employees, who received compensation in mid-October.
"While Congress cannot erase the damage it caused by allowing a partial shutdown of the FAA last summer, it has begun to redeem itself by approving this four year authorization with strong bipartisan support. We must continue in this bipartisan fashion throughout the NextGen project and on other critical issues facing our country," concluded LoBiondo.