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Mr. HALL. Mr. Speaker, I rise, of course, in support of the conference report of H.R. 658.
To begin with, I think I recognized our chairman gave accolades to all those he worked with, and I think we owe accolades back to him and his fine staff.
The word ``transportation'' indicates travel, and he's traveled all over this country to bring this bill together. I don't think he's turned anybody down that's asked him to come down to help them with their area and given us due consideration.
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, in working with our Senate counterparts, helped write title IX, reauthorizing Federal Aviation, Research and Development. We also worked with our friends on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to draft various sections relating to the FAA's NextGen Air
Transportation System in title II, the section relating to Unmanned Aircraft Systems in title III, and the provision addressing commercial space-launch licenses.
I appreciated working with Jerry Costello on that line. He has been a gentleman and we'll miss him.
The FAA underpins our Nation's economy and helps sustain a high quality of life, enabling people to travel safely, reliably, conveniently, and relatively inexpensively to virtually every corner of the Nation and the world. It's a 24-7 operation, staffed by highly trained and dedicated controllers and technicians who rely on evolving technologies to ensure mission success. A robust research and development program was fundamental to FAA's role. The NextGen program, which is expected to cost well over $20 billion when completed, will modernize our air traffic control system to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of flights, but doing so safely, efficiently, and with less fuel burn.
Even though FAA is a highly automated, technologically driven agency, one of the peculiar ironies is its low level of investment in R&D. For fiscal year 2012, FAA requested an R&D budget of $386 million, which amounts to slightly less than 2.5 percent of the agency's total budget. That's a small level of investment for an agency that relies heavily on automation and is only made possible because of aeronautics-related R&D activities funded by the National Space Administration, which is carefully coordinated with the FAA and the industry.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that Mr. Mica and his leadership were able to bring closure on this matter and on this important bill.
I urge all Members to support this legislation.
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