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Contract Tower Costs out of Control; NATCA Asks DOT Inspector General to Investigate - (7/30/2003)

CONTACT: Doug Church, 202.220.9802, (cell) 301.346.8245

WASHINGTON – Funding for the Federal Contract Tower Program has increased by more than 49 percent over the last three years, dramatically outpacing the rate of growth of the Federal Aviation Administration’s operations budget. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has asked Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead to investigate this and other examples of uncontrolled costs and unfulfilled contractual obligations.

According to Mead’s own past findings of the Contract Tower Program, towers were not staffed in accordance with contractual staffing agreements, payment for services which were not delivered, contractors were overpaid and the overall performance plan was inadequate.

“The inspector general is fond of noting the growth in the FAA operations budget, which is 18 percent over the past three years. We think we have found one of the main causes,” NATCA President John Carr said. “The growth in the cost of contract towers cannot be sustained and we urge Mr. Mead in the strongest possible terms to investigate the financial morass known as the Federal Contract Tower Program.”

Carr noted the urgency for an investigation, in light of a Congressional conference committee report on the FAA Reauthorization bill. If passed by the U.S. House and Senate, this bill would allow for the removal of FAA controllers from 69 air traffic control towers and replace them with contracted employees. Eleven of these towers rank among the 50 busiest in the country, according to the FAA administrators’ latest figures.

While the contract tower program’s funding level has increased 49.71 percent since 2000, the number of contract towers has increased by only five percent during the same time period. Additionally, the Contract Tower Association has stated that the annual cost for a contract tower is $271,000. However, data taken by NATCA from the CTA’s own information shows the actual average cost is more than $413,917 – nearly twice what the contractor previously represented.

“The need for the facts on this matter is urgent, given the fact that the FAA reauthorization bill pending before Congress proposes to expand the Federal Contract Tower Program significantly,” Carr said. “The record of the Contract Tower Program to date suggests that an expansion will be a boon for the contractors, but a disaster for taxpayers.”

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