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October 31st, 2017 6:15 pm
Concerns Over Air Traffic “Privatization” Continue to Accumulate
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Alongside numerous other conservative and libertarian organizations, CFIF has repeatedly voiced concerns regarding an effort underway in Congress to “privatize” our nation’s air traffic control system (H.R. 2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act”), which doesn’t appear to constitute true privatization at all.  In fact, it may actually make the situation worse.

Among other concerns, the proposed legislation would:

–  Increase the power air traffic controllers’ unions by not only maintaining current centralized monopoly power over air traffic control, but actually expanding their authority over such matters as personnel changes, salary caps and mandatory retirement age (currently 56, compared to 65 for pilots), thus explaining unions’ support for the bill;

–  Increase the federal budget deficit by $20 billion between now and 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO);

–  Upend U.S. Department of Defense practices.  According to the Defense Department, “The establishment of a new entity separate from the FA 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”;

–  Create an air traffic control entity that 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.

And now, the concerns have grown.  As noted by The Hill, according to the Congressional Research Service, the proposal would trigger automatic cuts from other programs due to its impact in raising the deficit, including Medicare, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Fund and the Military Retirement Fund, among others:

A memo from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), released Monday by Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Rick Larsen (Wash.), found that legislation to hand over the country’s air navigation system to a private entity would trigger budget sequestration, which automatically cuts some mandatory spending programs if a piece of legislation exceeds certain budget caps.

In the case of the air traffic control (ATC) spinoff plan, it would result in across-the-board spending cuts of $49 billion over the next 10 years.  That would include cuts to Medicare, the Military Retirement Fund, the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Flood Insurance Fund and other critical programs, DeFazio and Larsen warned.”

As stated by our friends at the American Conservative Union Foundation, we “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.”

Until all of these defects are resolved, however, Congress mustn’t act in a way that would make matters worse.

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