CONGRESSMAN JIM SENSENBRENNER - PROUDLY SERVING WISCONSIN‘S 5TH DISTRICT

Jim's Weekly Column

Ill-Advised Cuts by FAA Put WI Jobs and Safety in Jeopardy

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Washington, Apr 1, 2013 | comments
Record debt of over $16.4 trillion and consecutive trillion dollar deficits caused by out of control spending in Washington have forced Congress to make some difficult decisions – and many more will be needed to stabilize our economy. We must go after the drivers of our debt, get America back on track to fiscal sanity and prevent the burden of mountainous debt from being passed down to future generations. This must be done carefully, ensuring the American people do not fall victim to political recklessness and recovery is not prolonged.

Government is riddled with duplicative programs, waste and excess. The sequester was a last ditch effort to turn the corner and get America on the right track. But I believe across the board cuts are not the answer. We must look at Washington spending through a microscope, systematically and responsibly shrinking the size and scope of our federal government – taking American taxpayers off the hook.

Rather than the scalpel approach I would prefer, the Obama Administration and the Democrat-led Senate would rather blindly swing their hatchets, dangerously hack away and then spike the football before returning to their offices to draft up the next piece of tax-and-spend legislation. As a result, efficient programs we rely on for safety, employment and our overall livelihoods are being threatened.

Sequestration went into effect March 1st and triggered a 5.3 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending for federal agencies for fiscal year 2013. For the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), this means $633 million in reduced funds. And while there is a plethora of waste in federal agencies, the Contract Tower Program (CTP), one of the FAA’s most cost-effective programs, is being cut by a disproportionate 75 percent.  Contract Towers are safer than comparable FAA-staffed towers, and cost an average of $1.5 million less per year. Closing these towers will also jeopardize efficiency and kill jobs.

As part of the FAA’s sequester implementation plan, 149 Federal Contract Towers will be shut down, including all eight in Wisconsin.  Closures will begin April 7 and will be phased over four weeks – the tower in Waukesha is scheduled to shutdown May 5.

“We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration.”

Considering the overwhelming amount of waste, fraud and abuse throughout our federal government, the “choice” to ill-advisedly shutdown these towers is simply unacceptable.

On March 14, several of my colleagues and I sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta questioning these closures despite considerable wasteful spending at FAA and we are currently awaiting his response.

Today, I sent a letter to Secretary LaHood inquiring, among other things:

  • Given his previous support for allowing flexibility with Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants– such as funds being funneled to remote airports while Federal Contract Towers around the country are being shut down – would he support legislation to authorize AIP funds to be used for Contract Tower operations?
  • Which parties did he hear from during the limited comment period that ended on March 13, 2013?
  • Were any of the parties who contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) supportive of his decision to cut the CTP? And if so, which ones?
  • It has been reported that the FAA may close federally-staffed towers, pending negotiations with FAA labor unions about the manner in which sequestration cuts will be implemented.  Did the FAA offer to negotiate with the contractors who operate the Contract Towers?
  • Will the FAA hire additional staff at federally-staffed towers should larger airports see increased air traffic due to tower closures at smaller airports?

Please know that I will keep you informed regarding this ongoing situation, as it is my responsibility to represent our community and protect it from recklessness in Washington. I will not stand idle while the safety and livelihoods of Wisconsinites are put in jeopardy by this Administration.

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