Legislative Issues: FAA Reauthorization
(Updated May 15, 2018)
- On April 27, the House passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), which would authorize the FAA through FY 2023. It received broad, bipartisan support in the House. NATCA supports H.R. 4 because it meets our Four Core Principles and includes important NATCA provisions.
- The Senate now must either consider H.R. 4 or pass its own FAA reauthorization bill, and any differences between it and H.R. 4 would need to be resolved before the president can sign it into law.
- If a long-term FAA reauthorization bill is not passed by September 30, the FAA will need another short-term extension or it will experience a partial shutdown.
HOW THIS ISSUE AFFECTS NATCA MEMBERS
The current aviation system has served us well until recent years. Unfortunately, the FAA no longer has a stable, predictable funding stream, and this uncertainty has caused many serious problems for the National Airspace System (NAS) and NATCA members. Although the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) is a step in the right direction, NATCA is continuing to advocate for a comprehensive, long-term solution that will improve on the status quo, which is unacceptable, and fully address the stop-and-go funding issue. NATCA also uses FAA reauthorization legislation as a vehicle to advance policy provisions that are critical to the system and our workforce, such as in H.R. 4.
An authorization bill is legislation used to authorize the activities of federal government agencies. For NATCA members, the FAA reauthorization bill is the authorizing measure that establishes, continues, and/or modifies FAA programs and activities. The FAA is operating under its fifth extension to its current authorization, which runs through September 30, 2018. The House recently passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), which, if passed in the Senate and signed into law, would authorize the FAA for five years.
For years NATCA has voiced concerns about the unstable, unpredictable funding stream for the FAA. The 23 short-term extensions to FAA authorization prior to the 2012 legislation, as well as other legislative expirations, have created challenges for America’s 24/7 aviation system, such as a partial government shutdown, a complete government shutdown, other threats for additional shutdowns, and indiscriminate spending cuts in all budgets mandated by sequestration.
Congress has not passed a long-term FAA reauthorization bill since 2012. Right now, the FAA is currently on its fifth consecutive short-term extension since the 2012 legislation expired. NATCA has been proactively examining proposals that would provide more funding stability and support infrastructure modernization, while also maintaining workforce protections.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) by a vote of 393 to 13. H.R. 4 is a bipartisan bill that authorizes the FAA through fiscal year (FY) 2023, as well as the collection and expenditure of taxes for the Airport and Airways Trust Fund. As of printing, the Senate has not yet taken up the bill. In order to avoid a lapse in authorization on September 30, the Senate must either take up H.R. 4 or pass its own FAA reauthorization bill, which would have to be “conferenced” with H.R. 4 to resolve any differences before being signed into law by the president. Otherwise, the FAA will need another short-term extension or it will go into a partial shutdown. After careful review and consideration, NATCA supports H.R. 4
Before the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was enacted, there were 23 short-term FAA extensions during a five-year period. Many times an extension was about to lapse, there was the potential for another partial FAA shutdown and employee furloughs. One lapse led to a partial FAA shutdown. NATCA has worked hard to address this type of funding uncertainty.
This is one of the primary reasons why we must remain involved and engaged in this process. NATCA continues to push for funding stability to end the stop-and-go funding uncertainty, which has been problematic for the workforce and the NAS.
On March 23, Congress avoided its third federal government shutdown in two months when it passed an omnibus spending package that funds the through the rest of the 2018 fiscal year. An extension of FAA authorization until September 30, 2018 was attached to the omnibus. FAA authorization is now on its fifth short-term extension.
NATCA has been working actively with the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, both of which have jurisdiction over FAA reauthorization legislation, to urge quick passage of long-term reauthorization for the FAA.
NATCA’S FOUR CORE PRINCIPLES FOR REFORM
NATCA will consider any reauthorization or reform proposal that meets our Four Core Principles for Reform, as long as the proposal does not maintain the status quo, which is unacceptable, or result in a for-profit air traffic control system.
- Protect NATCA members, including their pay, rights, and benefits;
- Ensure safety and efficiency remain top priorities;
- Provide for a stable, predictable funding stream that must adequately support air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization to infrastructure; and
- Maintain a diverse and dynamic aviation system that continues to provide services to all segments of the aviation community, from commercial passenger carriers and cargo haulers to business jets and general aviation, at all major airports and small airports in rural areas.