The U.S. National Airspace System Must Have a Stable, Predictable Funding Stream
(Updated Dec. 2019)
NATCA believes that the most serious challenge facing the FAA and our National Airspace System (NAS) today is the absence of a stable, predictable funding stream. The most recent illustration of this unstable, unpredictable funding stream occurred from Dec. 22, 2018-Jan. 25, 2019 when the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history ended after 35 days. That shutdown was tremendously harmful because it eroded the layers of critical elements necessary to support and maintain the safety of the NAS.
Every time the government is shut down, or brought to the brink of a shutdown, it has real consequences for real people. Stop-and-go funding negatively affects all aspects of the NAS. It undermines air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization projects, preventative maintenance, and ongoing modernization to the physical infrastructure. It also slows the hiring and training process, which exacerbates the current controller staffing crisis, while preventing the timely implementation of modernization projects and the integration of new users into the NAS. Without a stable, predictable funding stream, the FAA will be hard-pressed to maintain current capacity, let alone modernize the system and expand it for new users.
Every time the NAS is forced to endure another shutdown due to a threatened lapse in appropriations or FAA authorization, the United States is at risk of losing its status as the safest, most efficient airspace system in the world. We must not let this happen again and NATCA will continue to fight for a solution to this problem.
How This Issue Affects NATCA Members
Stop-and-go funding leads to a more stressful, less productive work environment for aviation safety professionals in a number of ways. Stop-and-go funding related to the expiration of funding or FAA authorization can result in government-wide and/or partial shutdowns. These shutdowns result in unpaid furloughs and/or uncertainty about when, or if, excepted members will be paid for continuing to perform their job duties.
The lack of a stable, predictable funding stream for the FAA also can lead to delays in the implementation of vital modernization technology, delays to the repair of current safety-critical equipment, and delays in hiring and training the next generation of controllers and aviation safety professionals.