By Jane Calderwood
“I’m waiting for courage
Cause I’m stuck
Limbo limbo limbo
Cause I’m stuck in limbo limbo
And I ain’t trying to be stuck no more!”
It is time once again for a lesson in Washington math:
22 extensions + 14 day FAA Shutdown + 9 years since the last FAA bill became law + 6 extensions covering 2011 alone + 5 years without an authorization + 2 month average extension in 2011 divided by the 6 days the House is in session in January + the 7 days Senate is in session for 7 days in January = Limbo
Limbo, according to the dictionary, means “a state of oblivion; a state in which somebody or something is neglected or is simply left in oblivion”. This neatly sums up the current state of affairs involving the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.
And, this state of affairs has got to end. ACI-NA President Greg Principato called on Congress in August at the end of the FAA shutdown and again last week to end the FAA’s stay in purgatory by passing a two-year extension of the FAA reauthorization upon their return to Washington later this month. Congress has more than enough practice passing FAA extensions – they accounted for 6 percent of the federal legislation signed into law last year! Congress should pass a long term extension and study up on some other legislative issue. I’m sure the highway folks are feeling a bit unloved and unwanted given that Congress has practically ignored them. After all, eight extensions is a second date compared to 22 which is as good as being engaged.
Congress gives up nothing by passing a two-year extension. Any arguments members of congress make about the need to “keep the pressure on” simply don’t hold water. If the ups and downs and teetering on the edge of the first 22 extensions didn’t exert enough pressure; if shutting down the federal agency responsible for aviation safety for 14 days while allowing $300 million to slip into the pockets of the airlines instead of being added to the Aviation Trust Fund didn’t exert enough pressure, than a mere two years certainly isn’t going to matter.
Two years, however, gives airports stability and the ability to plan without having any impact on Congress’ ability to pass a final bill. Although if we take history into account, it could be that two years is not long enough.
By Morgan Dye
Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) today submitted comments in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Request for Public Comments regarding “U.S.-Canada Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness”. In the filed comments, ACI-NA applauded the plan announced on December 7, 2011 by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper as “a good first step in improving the facilitation and security of trade, air travel, and the associated economic benefits for both countries”. The comments also stressed the importance of the U.S. and Canadian Governments coordinating with ACI-NA on the aviation components as the Action Plan is refined and implemented.
“ACI-NA has long urged the Department to take a risk-based approach to security by focusing our limited government and industry resources on those people and goods about which the least is known,” said ACI-NA President Greg Principato. “Therefore, we were pleased that the Declaration by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper on February 4, 2011 stated ‘we expect to use a risk management approach’ and that ‘effective risk management should enable us to accelerate legitimate flows of people and goods into the United States and Canada and across our common border, while enhancing the physical security and economic competitiveness of our countries’.”
ACI-NA’s comments also noted the importance of the process outlined in the Action Plan to phase out the requirement for rescreening connecting checked baggage arriving at U.S. gateway airports. “We view this initiative as providing one of the most important aviation improvements in the Action Plan”, said Principato.
“For years, ACI-NA has been working on potential solutions with TSA, DHS and Congress to eliminate this redundant rescreening process because it unnecessarily drains limited TSA and industry resources and inconveniences passengers without providing meaningful security benefits. Elimination of rescreening of connecting checked baggage will free up some TSA resources, minimize the operational burden on U.S. airports; decrease flight delays; minimize misconnected checked baggage; and improve the passenger travel experience,” he continued.
View ACI-NA’s full comments.
On Tuesday, ACI-NA President Greg Principato posted the following commentary on the National Journal’s Transportation blog as part of a discussion on the next round of FAA extensions:
When Congress returns to Washington later this month – the House will be in session for a total of 6 days, the Senate for 7 – the first item of business should be to pass a two-year extension of the operating authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Airports have been forced to deal with 23 extensions in the last five years, including 6 covering 2011 alone. The last 6 extensions, which averaged just over 2 months in length, have left the FAA and the airports filling out and approving multiple forms for the same projects. This is no way to run the safest aviation system in the world. Uncertainty in basic airport funding, such as 22 days of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants (such as that provided by P.L. 112-21) severely limits the ability to move forward on needed safety and security projects. It also impedes airport efforts to meet the 2015 Runway Safety Area deadline mandated by Congress.
The unprecedented 14-day shutdown of the FAA in July only exacerbated the situation. The flying public, and the Aviation Trust Fund, which lost nearly $300 million during the shutdown, literally cannot afford a repeat performance. Congress cannot and must not leave the aviation community in limbo any longer.
A two-year extension of FAA’s operating authority does not in any way hinder congressional efforts to complete negotiations on the pending FAA reauthorization bill. It simply provides certainty for planning, programming, project execution and job creation, something much needed after five years of living extension to extension, until such time as the House and Senate reach agreement on a final bill.