Home > posts > Air Traffic Control Restructuring: Conservatives’ Concerns Remain Unresolved
June 6th, 2017 2:31 pm
Air Traffic Control Restructuring: Conservatives’ Concerns Remain Unresolved
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

CFIF has for months highlighted serious concerns regarding proposals to remodel the nation’s air traffic control system.

More specifically, alongside other conservative groups, we’ve noted how proposals claiming to “privatize” the system don’t fairly constitute true privatization at all.  The federally-chartered nonprofit corporation earlier proposals contemplate repeats the same errors of previous public/private creations like Amtrak and the U.S. Post Office.  It would maintain monopoly power over air traffic control while perpetuating and expanding benefits for the current air traffic controllers union, which standing alone undercuts the primary goal of true privatization:  eliminating inefficiencies of government bureaucracies in favor of competition and market choice.  In fact, the proposal could weaken existing constraints on unionized air traffic controllers regarding such crucial functions as personnel changes, salary limits and the current mandatory retirement age of 56 (whereas pilots themselves can continue to age 65).  It’s therefore no mystery why the National Air Traffic Controllers Union advocates the proposal.  The new entity would also possess authority to levy new taxes and user fees without oversight of Congress, let alone the sort of competition that true privatization would provide.  That could mean much higher costs for the traveling American public.

Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that it would widen the federal deficit by $20 billion between 2017 and 2026, and increase net direct spending by $90 during that span.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also found that the proposal could delay NextGen air system implementation, and the Defense Department recently determined that, “The establishment of a new entity separate from the FAA raises serious concerns regarding the disposition of certain unique National Defense procedures, programs and policy.”  It added that, “it is significant to note that the DoD relies on FAA ‘command and control’ capabilities in the execution of the national defense mission.’”

This week, the Trump Administration issued a broad set of principles regarding air traffic control system reform, but it left those myriad serious concerns unresolved.  Apart from a generalized comment advocating a no-strike clause in any future agreement, it simply accommodated the flaws of previous proposals or left them unaddressed.

The nation’s air traffic control system is too critical an issue to leave vulnerable to the concerns that we and other conservative organizations have itemized throughout this process, and Congress should not authorize any plan that fails to resolve them.

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