Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) and several Congressional colleagues have sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael P. Huerta asking them to explain the decision to implement the budget sequestration by closing air traffic towers in Columbia and other airports across the country. Included in the 238 control towers are 189 towers that are part of the Contract Tower Program -- a cost-effective program for taxpayers.
"A 2011 report by the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General said contract towers cost on average $537,000 a year to operate, compared with $2 million for comparably busy FAA-staffed towers," states the letter. "Given the cost-effectiveness of contract towers, these cuts make little sense from a budget perspective."
"From safety and cost perspectives, there is no logic in the FAA disproportionately targeting the contract tower program," said Hartzler. "The unnecessary closings will cause job losses in Columbia and about 150 other airports across the country. I also question the reasoning in cutting 75 percent from the Contract Tower fund when sequestration only requires a 5 percent reduction. There is plenty of waste that can be trimmed by administrators implementing the budget sequester and there is absolutely no need to put travelers at risk and workers on unemployment because of the Obama Administration's poor choices on where to cut."
If the Columbia tower closes, pilots flying into and out of Columbia Regional Airport would have to communicate with air traffic controllers in Springfield and Kansas City. There are concerns this could cause safety problems.
Congresswoman Hartzler, who represents Missouri's Fourth Congressional District, serves on the House Budget, Armed Services, and Agriculture Committees.