In an ongoing effort to protect air traffic control towers from being closed due to sequestration, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today made the following statement on the introduction of the Protect Our Skies Act, bipartisan legislation of which he is an original cosponsor:
"Just a few years ago, the FAA efficiently operated its contract control towers program with $200 million less in its agency budget than it is funded at today," said Inhofe. "To now close 60 percent of contract towers due to a 5 percent budget cut from sequestration is questionable. Four towers in Oklahoma will face closure, and as a pilot I can tell you first hand the importance these towers play for aviation safety and economic opportunity for the local communities. The introduction of the Protect Our Skies Act is another step in our ongoing effort to protect the historically cost-effective program from political games the Administration is attempting to play with sequestration budget cuts. I am proud to work with Sens. Moran, Blumenthal and others to find a bipartisan solution to responsibly address budget reductions while also keeping our skies safe and towers open."
On March 22, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it would be closing 149 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contract control towers as a result of sequestration budget cuts. The decision will affect Oklahoma towers in Lawton, Norman, Wiley Post in Oklahoma City and Stillwater. While the closures were to take effect on April 7, the DOT has since delayed closures until June 15 due to legal challenges.
The Protect Our Skies Act would prohibit DOT from closing any air traffic control towers during FY 2013 and 2014. It is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 20 Senators.
Inhofe was also a cosponsor of an amendment to the Senate Democratic Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2014 that would make it easier to restore federal funding in fiscal year 2014 for air traffic control towers. The amendment was adopted by unanimous consent and the Budget Resolution passed the Senate on March 23.
On March 14, Inhofe introduced an amendment to the Senate Continuing Resolution (CR) with eight other colleagues to stop the FAA from targeting the air traffic control towers in sequestration.