Both Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt expressed disappointment after Congress adjourned for the week without passing a clean FAA reauthorization extension. LaHood said that because of their inaction, states and airports won’t be able to work on their construction projects, and too many people will have to go without a paycheck.
The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight tonight, Friday, July 22, 2011. Congress has extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times without controversy. Without an extension, the FAA will be forced to furlough nearly 4,000 employees and will be unable to move forward on important airport construction projects and other critical airport activities.
While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised. FAA Administrator Babbitt said FAA employees who will be furloughed perform critical work for our nation’s aviation system and our economy.
The Airport Improvement Program has already stopped processing new airport grants in anticipation of a furlough. The program, which provides construction project grants to airports, will be shut down and unable to provide roughly $2.5 billion for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs. For example:
- Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate a major taxiway
- St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport in St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 04/22
- Cambridge Municipal Airport in Cambridge, Ohio is still waiting on funding to acquire snow removal equipment and conduct a survey to develop an instrument approach procedure
- Houghton County Memorial Airport in Hancock, Michigan is still waiting on funding to modify their terminal building and discourage wildlife from entering the active airfield
- Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Virginia is still waiting on funding to proceed with construction of a new apron for terminal concourse A
- Henderson City-County Airport in Henderson, Kentucky is still waiting on funding to rehabilitate Runway 09/27
- Clovis Municipal Airport in Clovis, New Mexico is still waiting on funding to relocate the localizer equipment due to a runway extension construction. This equipment is out of service on the main runway until the project can proceed
- Lubbock International Airport in Lubbock, Texas is still waiting on funding to begin the third phase of a critical runway rehabilitation
- Adams Field in Little Rock, Arkansas is still waiting on funding to begin the rehabilitation of taxiway lighting, construction of a Runway Safety Area, and the installation of Precision Approach Path Indicator
Additionally, the FAA will be forced to withhold money for states and individual airports as a result of the lapse in authorization. For example, Florida airports will not have access to over $40 million in funding and the state of California cannot use nearly $38 million. The FAA also cannot give the state of Ohio over $10 million in airport grant money or the state of Virginia over $16 million for which they are eligible.
Up to 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia will be affected. This includes many of FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.