By Jane Calderwood
Its days before Christmas
The Senate is gone
But the House continues
To keep hanging on
They’ve funded the government
Extended the extensions
And passed the majority of bills
They’ve named post offices
And talked and talked about jobs
And we long ago lost count
Of all the bombs they have lobbed
They shut down the FAA and
Failed to cut spending
And their complaints about each other
Seem never ending
So please dash away, dash away, dash away all
Go home and be quiet, we all need a rest
We’ll see you in January
When you return to fix this mess
Posted on Centerlines Blog on Dec. 13 by Jane Calderwood
Looking back on 2011 brings to mind the lyrics of an old country song “Another day older and deeper in debt.” Not to be too much of a downer but I do have to remind everyone that we still have to survive another year of this Congress (329 days until the 2012 election – not that I’m counting) before we have any chance at real change.
The funny thing is that the 112th Congress appeared to get off to a promising start with both the House and Senate passing FAA reauthorization legislation in the first months of the year. Few of us imagined we’d be stuck living through another Ground Hog Day scenario when it came to getting this bill done. Yet here we are in mid-December still without an FAA conference report. Maybe 2011 was meant to test one of my mother’s favorite phrases “patience is a virtue” (though I’ve come to the sad conclusion that on this issue, mum was wrong ). If that’s not bad enough, Congress continues to tease us with rumors that they have reached agreement on the reauthorization only to admit that the National Mediation Board (i.e. the Fed-Ex/UPS of 2011) language is holding things up.
In some ways the lack of a final FAA bill is simply the status quo after 22 extensions. In fact, it’s become a bit of a running joke inside the beltway. The folks who pen Politico’s Morning Transportation have been running a daily tally on the plight of the FAA reauthorization. In Monday’s column the tally showed that there were 51 days remaining before the 22nd FAA extension expires and notes that 1,526 days have passed since the last FAA bill expired.
And don’t even get me started on the 14 day shutdown of the entire FAA in late July. I’ve watched Congress do a lot of dumb things in my 26 years in this town (okay, I helped with a few of them, but in my defense, I was young and didn’t know any better). But who would have guessed (or bet $10,000) Congress would shut down the agency charged with aviation safety? And if it hadn’t been for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s shutting down construction on all the FAA tower projects, I’m convinced the shutdown would have lasted through August. I took the opportunity this past week to thank the secretary personally for his quick thinking and for taking a very loud, public stance in support of the agency.
So while I do understand that time is precious and should never be wished away, 2011 has been a frustrating, ulcer causing year with more stops and starts than a city bus route. So I am counting the days to 2012, not because I think Congress will suddenly come to their senses (though that is at the top of my list to Santa), but because I’m more than ready to see 2011 in the rear view mirror. After all, one can always hope for the future.
By Morgan Dye
Airports Council International-North American (ACI-NA) and the Canadian Airports Council (CAC) today welcomed the Beyond the Border Action Plan announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a good step forward in bi-national relations between Canada and the U.S., and good for North American aviation.
“North America’s airports will see tremendous benefit from this new commitment to our Canada-U.S. relationship,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato. “The border agencies of Canada and the U.S. have a great track record of working together. This accord reinforces this great work.”
Among the welcome measures announced are the planned elimination of baggage security rescreening requirements for Canadian originating bags at U.S. airports by the Transportation Security Administration, expansion of U.S. pre-clearance for cargo from Canada, and the expansion of Nexus benefits to travelers. Also included was a commitment “to identify and develop solutions to operational impediments to the effectiveness of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) pre-clearance operations at Canadian airports by June 2012.” Improved staffing levels at CBP have been a priority for Canadian airports for several years.
“The U.S. is Canada’s biggest trading partner and Canada’s airports strive to make travel between Canada and the U.S. as easy and hassle free as possible for business and leisure travelers alike,” said Canadian Airports Council Chairman Bill Restall. “In the historic press conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hopes the new accord will lead to more Canadians visiting the U.S. We also hope it will lead to more Americans visiting Canada, and increased cross border trade for the benefit of both countries. A key part of that is a considered allocation of staffing resources at both Canadian and U.S. border agencies.”
The U.S. CBP provides customs and border services to travelers departing for the U.S. from eight Canadian airports that have U.S. pre-clearance facilities at which CBP agents process travelers prior to their departure from Canada. They perform this function in the U.S. for travelers from other Canadian airports, however in recent years CBP staffing levels at many North American airports have not kept pace with the healthy growth in air traffic between the two countries. In the first six months of 2011 alone, this traffic was up 4.5 percent.
ACI-NA and the CAC have been long-time proponents of initiatives that ease the facilitation of passengers and goods at the Canada-U.S. air border from CBP and the Canada Border Services Agency, including technology-based trusted traveler programs like Nexus and Global Entry.
“Canada and the U.S. enjoy an important longstanding relationship,” said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch, “Our airports welcome initiatives that ultimately make the experience of travelling between Canada and the U.S. easier and more hassle free. We appreciate the Government of Canada’s consultations with industry on these initiatives and that the interests of Canada’s aviation sector have been considered.”