Reauth Bill Could Stretch FAA Thin
May 7, 2010
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  • By Adrian Schofield

    While FAA reauthorization will bring welcome funding stability, it will also place a tremendous burden on the agency in the form of a raft of new regulatory requirements, according to FAA Chief Counsel David Grizzle.

    The reauthorization bills being considered by the House and Senate would mandate the creation of several new rules as well as up to 14 studies and 30 reports, Grizzle said at the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium on April 30.

    These efforts are not “directionally wrong,” but they will “consume [FAA’s] rulemaking capacity for a year and a half.” The mandated rules and studies could “pull resources away from activities that have a more direct bearing on safety,” said Grizzle.

    However, he also noted that the agency’s airport improvement program has “really been hurt” by having to rely on short-term funding extensions. Some projects have been delayed or canceled because of this, and “on the whole” the FAA will be glad to see reauthorization completed.

    Grizzle also had some pointed comments about the NextGen reauthorization effort. He admitted that the Joint Planning and Development Office created to oversee NextGen has “failed to deliver its potential.” However, a recent restructuring of JPDO and NextGen has shifted its timetable to “this side of irrelevant.”

    FAA is realigning the NextGen effort based on the recommendations of an industry-government task force. Grizzle noted that 21% of the current fiscal year’s NextGen budget is devoted to implementing the task force recommendations, and more than 35% of the FY2011 NextGen budget.

    Regarding FAA’s often-contentious labor relations, Grizzle said the agency has “struggled to incorporate its [controllers] union in collaborative decision making.” However, he also said that the union needs to “mature” and recognize the limitations of budget constraints. FAA unions need to “separate professional and safety issues from industrial issues,” although the agency is “seeing more and more progress in this regard.”

    Date: 2010-05-04