By Rep. Bob Gibbs
On my way to Washington this week, my flight, along with many others, was delayed. The 45 minute delay wasn't due to bad weather, a mechanical problem, or poor scheduling by the airline. It was an unaccountable bureaucrat who decided to slow down the lives of Americans.
You may have seen the news this week concerning the 40 percent of flights that have been delayed throughout the country. This air traffic jam is a direct result of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughing air traffic controllers in response to the sequester recently implemented out of Washington for federal spending. The sequester called for a 5 percent cut to the FAA. That's it -- 5 percent.
The administration has known since November 2011 that sequestration was a distinct possibility, but made the conscious decision to avoid making any savings decisions for over a year. The FAA has acknowledged that it has the flexibility to reduce costs in a variety of ways, but has chosen the disruptive and economically damaging method of furloughs to achieve the savings.
The FAA has 47,000 employees, of which 15,500 are air traffic controllers. They have deliberately chosen to furlough all employees equally, despite the fact that their duties differ dramatically. They have also chosen to implement the furloughs without regard to the size of operations at varying airports. For example, furloughs are occurring at the same rate at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (8,200 operations per day) as the Waterloo Regional Airport in Iowa (79 operations per day).
The FAA currently spends nearly $500 million for consultants, $325 million in supplies and travel, and operates its own aircraft totaling $143 million. These should all be examined for potential savings before furloughs are considered.
FAA's operations budget has grown by 109 percent since 1996, up from $4.6 billion to $9.7 billion. The 5 percent reduction in operations required under sequestration would only take FAA back to approximately 2010 levels -- a time when we didn't see these massive delays.
Rather than furlough employees responsible for safety and efficiency, FAA decision makers would be better suited to furlough themselves and hire someone else who can make the commonsense decisions that Americans deserve.
Gibbs is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.