No one will escape unscathed from federal “sequester” spending cuts. Sequestration-mandated austerity measures mean across-the-board cuts to government programs, amounting to more than $85 billion slashed in this fiscal year and similar cuts for the following seven years.
The belt tightening was necessary but, in some cases, the proverbial axe was applied, rather than the scalpel. While spending cuts were evenly divided between defense and non-defense categories, the cuts within other programs were less precise. One of those cuts with the potential to impact practically everyone is the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to close 179 contract control towers across the country — including five in Kansas. The initial one-month closure notice, which was announced March 1, was forestalled until June 15 following an unsuccessful effort by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and 32 bi-partisan Senate co-sponsors to preserve aviation safety across the country.
In many ways, the sequester’s cuts will strengthen the United States’ fiscal stability, but that won’t be accomplished without shedding jobs and slowing the economy’s oh-so-gradual improvement.
The nation’s largest pilots’ union and airlines sued the FAA Friday because of its decision to impose furloughs on air traffic controllers beginning Sunday. Those furloughs are reported to reduce the controller workforce by 10 percent and save $200 million. That kind of a furlough can’t occur without imposing significant delays for passengers.
The FAA applied its’ Congressionally-imposed spending cuts as requested, but it appears it is focusing more on trying to make political points eliciting ample drama rather than carefully cutting in areas such as the FAA’s research and development project, NextGen. The NextGen project, which intends to move air traffic control efforts from the ground — also known as control towers — to cloud-based efforts, could be slowed down without negatively impacting today’s aviation safety.
Forward motion doesn’t always have to be at full-speed, especially if it isn’t affordable to do so. Sometimes development has to take a back seat to conducting safe daily operations. We don’t need politicians in the pilot seat.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher