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Posts Tagged ‘FAA’
September 22nd, 2017 at 1:55 pm
Air Traffic Control Proposal: Making Airlines Tax Collectors?
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Beware policy proposals waving the “privatization” banner that don’t constitute true privatization at all, and threaten to actually worsen the situation.

The latest example:  Efforts to restructure the U.S. air traffic control system, which would likely repeat the mistakes of such federal boondoggles as Amtrak and the U.S. Post Office.

Alongside numerous other conservative and libertarian organizations, CFIF has maintained serious concerns over H.R. 2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act.”  Those concerns include, among other flaws:

  • Greater empowerment of air traffic controller unions, by maintaining centralized monopoly power over air traffic control while expanding their authority over such matters as personnel changes, salary caps and mandatory retirement age (currently at age 56, compared to 65 for pilots), which explains why the unions favor the proposal;
  • It would increase the U.S. budget deficit by $20 billion between 2017 and 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) itself;
  • The U.S. Department of Defense recently weighed in to say, “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,” adding that, “it is significant to note that the DoD relies on FAA ‘command and control’ capabilities in the execution of the national defense mission”;
  • The proposed replacement air traffic control entity would possess authority to impose new taxes and user fees without Congressional oversight, meaning higher costs for American consumers, which is far from the sort of market competition that true “privatization” would offer.

On that latter point, Andrew Langer of the Institute for Liberty raises an ominous concern in his recent commentary in The Washington Times:

[W]e’ve been told that the new entity will be self-funded, in this case by a user fee.  As always, I’m skeptical taxpayers won’t ultimately have to bail out a GSE, but with the ATC proposal, it’s really about control.  Proponents have made clear that their real motivation is to shift the tax burden to other segments of the industry.  Ian Adams, a proponent of separating ATC, recently argued that it would reallocate the tax burden among the ‘fees its users pay,’ including general aviation.

The only privatization will be that the authorization and taxing authority of Congress will be supplanted by authority of one segment of an industry to tax another with no oversight.  If the airlines were granted more monopoly power and gained taxing authority from Congress, they have shown time and again that they would abuse that power.  They have increased their fees on passengers by over $7 billion.  Now they want to phase out their fuel and excise tax for a flat user-fee tax that would get levied disproportionately at economy class passengers.  I’m always in favor of getting rid of taxes, but this is a tax by another name, without the political accountability to keep it from rising in perpetuity.

And, since there would be no accountability from anyone to stop it or make sure this entity is being managed properly, it’s a safe bet that ultimately all taxpayers will pay more in the form of a bailout.”

That is among the reasons the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) last week announced its opposition to the proposed restructuring, saying that it, “would gladly stand in support of true policy efforts to privatize our air traffic control system that better reflect the ideals of privatization – those that align with a more robust free market and exhibit a true transfer of power from public to private hands.”

Well said.  At this point, the proposal simply doesn’t amount to the type of true privatization that merits support from conservatives and libertarians across America.

March 30th, 2017 at 2:31 pm
Union Activists Continue to Push Air Traffic Control “Privatization” Proposal
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This afternoon, proponents of a proposal claiming to privatize air traffic control (ATC) are joining with labor activists to continue pushing what amounts to a labor union giveaway.  Alongside a number of conservative groups, CFIF remains concerned about the proposal, which upon closer scrutiny doesn’t constitute true privatization at all, because it would maintain monopoly power over ATC without sufficient accountability to taxpayers, as well as expanded gold-plated compensation and benefit guarantees to the National Air Traffic Controller’s union.

Instead of real privatization through open competition, pricing transparency and increased efficiency, the union-supported proposal would create a federally-chartered nonprofit corporation similar to current inefficient and bloated public/private entities like Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service, which have long required massive subsidies and bailouts from taxpayers while struggling to manage legacy union contracts.  Under the proposal, air traffic controllers would receive additional taxpayer- and passenger-funded guarantees with diminished legal consequences for labor pressure tactics.  It’s therefore little wonder that the union’s bosses push the proposal so aggressively.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined last year that creation of a nonprofit ATC corporation would widen the federal budget deficit by $20 billion between 2017 and 2026.

This type of proposal could lead to a vicious cycle of increased user fees, more aggressive union contract demands and potential taxpayer bailouts.

February 9th, 2017 at 10:21 am
CFIF Reiterates Concerns Re: Proposals to Restructure Nation’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) System
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In a letter sent to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee  members today, the Center for Individual Freedom reiterated its deep concerns regarding  proposals to restructure the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system.

In addition to pointing out ongoing concerns outlined in a coalition letter that was sent back in August, CFIF highlighted new concerns:

Since that letter, the Defense Department stated just last week that creating a separate new ATC organization “raises serious concerns.”  In its analysis, the Pentagon said, “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 noted, “It is significant to note that the DOD relies on FAA ‘command and control’ capabilities in the execution of the national defense mission.”

Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined last year that creation of a nonprofit ATC corporation would widen the federal budget deficit by $20 billion between 2017 and 2026, and increase net direct spending by an alarming $90 billion over that same period.  Separately, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) also determined that the proposed ATC restructuring may delay implementation of the NextGen air transportation system while necessary new safety oversight procedures were developed.

Read CFIF’s full letter here.

June 26th, 2012 at 12:42 pm
Domestic Drones Turned Into Terrorist Missiles?

Previously, I’ve agreed with Charles Krauthammer’s concerns about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) being allowed into domestic airspace because of the threat to privacy from so-called “eyes in the sky.”

Now, Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is showing how tech savvy terrorists can, and very likely will, exploit a “gaping hole” in the government’s flight security structure.

Last Tuesday, in the barren desert of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, officials from the FAA and Department of Homeland Security watched as Humphrey’s team repeatedly took control of a drone from a remote hilltop. The results were every bit as dramatic as the test at the UT stadium a few days earlier.

DHS is attempting to identify and mitigate GPS interference through its new “Patriot Watch” and “Patriot Shield” programs, but the effort is poorly funded, still in its infancy, and is mostly geared toward finding people using jammers, not spoofers.

According to Humphreys, “Spoofing [a drone’s GPS receiver] is just another way of hijacking a plane.”

For about $1,000 and with a little bit of technical training a terrorist could take control of any civilian-operated drone and wreck havoc.  Without a human pilot at the controls, the drone’s onboard computer will simply follow whatever commands it is given, regardless of where they originate.

And while some terrorists may be interested in taking over surveillance drones for intelligence gathering purposes, the real danger is if a drone as large as a cargo plane – which FedEx plans to use when domestic drones are approved – is overtaken and flown into planes carrying people or into crowded buildings.

As Humphreys says, “In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace.  Each one of these would be a potential missile used against us.”

So not only would a terrorist hacker not need to buy a drone in order to fly one, he wouldn’t even need to go through an invasive TSA screening to reenact the 9/11 tragedy.

Because of pressure from the military and drone manufacturers, Congress is requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to fast-track regulations as part of the FAA’s reauthorization act.  Significant rules that will impact every American are to be conceived, written, and finalized within weeks of each other, and an entire regulatory scheme is mandated to be implemented in less than a year.

If you think that kind of statutory mandate translates into greater bureaucratic efficiency, think again.

The time-crunch – and the deliberate lack of oversight from Congress by pushing the rule writing onto an agency – means that everyday Americans will not be privy to the decision making process that will dramatically impact their safety in the air and on the ground.

Congress needs to rein itself and this process in.  With arguably illegal waivers being given to certain groups to avoid provisions of ObamaCare and No Child Left Behind, we’ve seen how arbitrary and capricious federal regulators can be when it comes to expedited rulemaking.  There’s no reason to expect a more coherent approach from an FAA trying to balance competing interests like privacy, profit, and public safety on an irrational deadline.

We need open debate and deliberation from our elected officials about the costs and benefits of domestic drones.  If Congress won’t engage the issue because it’s too politically painful, then the American people shouldn’t suffer a lapse in safety and privacy because their representatives would rather pass the buck than take responsibility.