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Senate Committee Blasts FAA for Inaction on Controller Staffing - (7/27/2006)

WASHINGTON – The Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, in its fiscal year 2007 bill language, has blasted the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to deliver an updated air traffic controller workforce plan and is proposing a $100,000-per-day cut to the FAA operations account for every day the report misses an annual March 1 deadline, beginning next year. 

“The Committee is greatly frustrated by the FAA's failure to transmit an update to its workforce plan,” the bill language states. “On May 4, 2006, the (FAA) Administrator testified before the Committee that an updated report would be submitted in a short period of time. The report, however, is now seven months late. The Committee directs the FAA to submit its 2006 plan immediately.” 

The Committee also lent strong support to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s firm belief that the imposed terms of employment and pay, which FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is currently forcing upon the controller workforce – against the will of a bipartisan majority in Congress – will lead to an increase in retirements. One in four controllers nationwide will reach retirement eligibility by the end of next year. 

“The Committee is concerned that the imposition of these new contract terms could result in an even larger number of senior controllers choosing to retire than was originally contemplated by the FAA,” the bill language states. “Given the overarching need for the agency to retain a seasoned and experienced workforce to maintain safety, the Committee plans to monitor this situation carefully.  

“As such, in addition to the prompt and regular submission of the controller workforce staffing plan, the Committee directs FAA to report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations on the extent of controller retirements and any trends they are experiencing in comparison to the number of retirements anticipated by the FAA for the current year and the number of retirements experienced in prior years. This report is due no later than April 15, 2007.”

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