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Public Statements

FAA Sequestration Delays

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. COATS. Madam President, I rise as a member of both the Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation and as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss what I believe is a shocking display of mismanagement and incompetence by the leadership of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the sequester will result in as many as 6,700 delays per day. To put this in context, on the worst weather day in 2012, we had 2,900 flight delays. So the FAA's projected 6,700 delays per day would more than double the worst day in 2012.

To me, this is disturbing evidence of the lack of planning on the part of both the Department of Transportation and the FAA, leading up to what we all knew was going to take place--in fact, since the law was signed by the President. We have known for 1 year this may happen. The President signed it into law, and we are now many months down the line and suddenly the FAA came along just a few days ago and said: Oh, we just need to let you know, by the way, we are going to implement this part of the sequestration.

This across-the-board furlough is especially surprising given the previous announcements their guiding principle when implementing sequestration would be to enact a plan that ``maintains safety and minimizes the impact to the highest number of travelers.'' Announcing 3 days or so before they implement this plan that potentially results in as many as 6,700 delays per day minimizes the impact of the highest number of travelers?

This is disingenuous. It is mismanagement at its worst. It is incompetence at its worst. It is a failure to do what every agency has been required to do; that is, plan for this. Now that it has been in law for several months, there is no excuse for simply saying: Oh, we didn't have time to put this in place, so this is what we are going to do.

I voted against sequestration because it treats every Federal program on an equal basis regardless of its necessity, its effectiveness, or whether it is an essential function of the Federal Government.

Clearly, keeping our skies safe and getting our passengers from point A to point B is an essential function. We need those air traffic controllers. The plan that was put forth by the FAA flies in the face of their own judgment and their own statements in terms of what they needed to do.

Instead of furloughing 47,000 employees and causing significant delays for travelers, they should have been seeking reductions elsewhere. We tried to give these essential agencies additional flexibility necessary to do so. Unfortunately, the President did not support that effort, and the majority party in the Senate did not support that effort. Therefore, they have no reason to point their fingers over here and say: Oh, sequestration is so terrible. We never should have been in this position in the first place.

The FAA, for the record, could have considered cutting back on the $541 million it spends on consultants--in other words, those who have been hired to work at the FAA because the FAA can't do the job themselves, so they need to spend $541 million to hire outside consultants--and the $2.7 billion it spends on non-personnel costs. But instead of looking at how to better manage their own administration, they turned to furloughing up to 10 percent of the air traffic controllers, creating up to 6,700 delays per day on the traveling public.

Then they say they haven't had time to work this out. Haven't had time? They have had months' worth of time since the law was signed. How about the time people now wasted standing at airports for 3 and 4 hours waiting to board their plane and the overall disruption this causes? And this is in good weather. That in itself is a lame excuse the FAA has put forward.

I did not vote for the sequestration, as I said before. I thought it was an inadequate way to deal with the necessary need to cut spending here. But the Federal Government says: We would like to do that, but we can't afford to do that right now and still focus on the essential services and give them the opportunity to manage that. Clearly, the FAA and the Department of Transportation have not managed this well at all. This is incompetence.

As I mentioned, Congress was only informed just days ahead of the time of these furloughs. This decision kicked in to the surprise of the airlines and to the surprise of Congress. But clearly what we have learned, despite 1 year of advance warning and refusals to analyze all possible alternatives to minimize impacts to the traveling public--and it is hard to come to any other conclusion--is this is a politically motivated decision to inflict as much pain on Americans as possible in an effort to make the case that sequestration never should have taken place in the first place; that a 4-percent across-the-board cut to the FAA budget is simply something they can't manage. In other words, we would have asked the FAA to do what they did in 2010 with the money that was allocated to them, but they can't do that now. This is 2012-2013 and they need this extra money and they need these hundreds of billions of dollars to continue to hire consultants. They don't want to be asked to make the kinds of decisions every business in this country has had to make over the last 4 or 5 years during the malaise of economic growth following the recession that has taken place. We shouldn't ask them to do what every family has had to do? Their thinking is: We are the Federal Government. How dare you impose a 4-percent cut on what we do. We need to increase that every year because we need to keep hiring more and paying more consultants. We are not capable of managing.

It is shocking. I hope the President understands if he wants effective, efficient government, he is going to have to hire effective, efficient management. He is going to have to give them the instructions to do what every business in America has had to do during this difficult economy and slow economic growth.

I think we should take a very close look at the kinds of decisions that have been made at the Department of Transportation, the lack of competent management, and the mismanagement of taxpayer money. This administration needs to step up to the plate and be accountable. The President, as I said, created and signed into law the sequestration policy. His administration has known for more than 12 months this policy was imminent and they have done nothing to prepare for it effectively.

Our country is a long way from getting our spending under control, so it is time the administration stops looking for excuses and starts managing its budget effectively.

With that, I yield the floor.


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