Author Archives: jrubel

Infrastructure: A Foundation for the Rest

By Jane Calderwood

Infrastructure is defined as “the most basic level of organizational structure in a complex body or system the serves as a foundation for the rest.”  So there is a connection between the lack of infrastructure investment for roads, rails, bridges, seaports and airports and a lackluster economy given that infrastructure provides “a foundation for the rest.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that the August unemployment numbers released today – you know, the ones that show there was NO job creation in August – is based solely on the lack of infrastructure funding.  But given the impact of the two week FAA shutdown, I’m thinking we can draw a pretty straight line between the fact that 70,000+ construction workers who lost their jobs; 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed, and the tens of thousands of jobs that weren’t created because airports couldn’t get their Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding because there were no FAA employees to process and award the money; and the unemployment numbers.

Next week Congress returns to face the very same issue they did before leaving town a month ago:  extending the operating authority for the FAA.  The current extension expires on September 16th leaving the House and Senate approximately 9 days to take action.  So what can we expect?  There are three scenarios:

Best Case: Congress passes a two year extension of FAA’s operating authority, as ACI-NA has urged, because it is clear that there are policy issues in the underlying legislation that can’t be worked out in 9 days.

Most Likely:  Congress passes yet another short term extension for two weeks, a month or some other random timeline.

Worst Case:  Congress shuts down the FAA again.

Here’s hoping members of congress retain the economic refresher course airports across the country provided during the August break to ensure that the “foundation for the rest” is strengthened by passage of a two year extension of FAA’s operating authority in order to provide the House and Senate with the time needed to work out their policy differences without stifling the ability of airports and their communities to grow and prosper.

Report from the PS & S Conference – Everyone Loves Known Traveler!

By Debby McElroy

It’s no surprise that the ACI-NA Public Safety and Security Conference in Washington had record attendance, both for the number of attendees as well as the number of airport representatives.  It’s also no surprise that the first session of the meeting covered THE hot topic in aviation security – risk-based security. 

What’s not to love about a program that offers such great potential to increase security and efficiency as well as improve the travel experience?  Airports and airlines have long supported the concept of “looking for bad people, not bad things”.  Speaking to the conference today, TSA Administrator Pistole described risk-based security as a way to “redefine (the) mission of TSA and how we execute on that mission”, emphasizing the need to “change the paradigm of one size fits all.” But, as with all security measures, the proverbial devil is in the details.

Brian Jackson, senior physical scientist with the Rand Corp., reminded everyone that the trusted traveler concept is nothing new; it is a concept that has been hotly debated since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  The concern, which remains today, is creating a system that acts as “a fast lane” for the bad guys.  Jackson discussed the Rand’s recent study which concluded that a trusted traveler program has significant benefits for the traveling public, even with “a reasonable number of attempts” by bad people to sneak into the system.  A key strategy for program success, he emphasized, is ensuring that background check requirements be robust enough to act as a deterrent for terrorists.

Ken Dunlap, director of global security for the International Air Transport Association, called for a “smarter, faster passenger process”, given that the number of airline passengers traveling throughout the world will increase from an estimated 2.5 billion in 2011 to more than 16 billion in 2050. He noted that the “security processing time” for passengers is going down and offered IATA’s “Checkpoint of the Future” as one possible solution to the problem.  He also cautioned airport officials not to label protestors who express concerns about aviation security as “crackpots but as canaries in the coal mine”, emphasizing the need to ensure passengers understand why technology and procedures are in place.

John Wagner, executive director, passenger programs and admissibility, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, discussed the Global Entry program, which is now in place at the 20 busiest airports in the United States with almost 750,000 enrolled.  ACI-NA has long been a supporter of this “pilot program”, which is expected to be made permanent and extended to other airports as soon as a final rule is issued; hopefully by the end of the year. CBP is working closely with TSA in their development of the TSA Known Traveler program Global Entry members, along with those enrolled in SENTRI and NEXUS, are among the small group eligible to participate in the pilot tests.

John Sammon, TSA’s assistant administrator-transportation sector network management, also touted the potential benefits of risk-based security, but emphasized “this is not a club, there is no guarantee” that participants in the Known Traveler program will not be required to undergo the same physical screening process as those not participating in the program, because of the need for “a random element” .  He also reminded conference attendees that this not only includes airline passenger screening but also the “Known Crewmember” program which was recently expanded to Chicago O’Hare and Miami airports and is going well.  Sammon agreed on the need to work closely with airports as it is rolled out, given that potential changes that may be necessary in the configuration of passenger screening checkpoint.

 

 

Prevent Further Delays to NEXTGEN with Long-Term FAA Authorization

By U.S. Representative Frank A. LoBiondo(NJ-02)

Representative LoBiondo

For two weeks this summer, Congress engaged in some of the most inexcusable and indefensible grand-standing that I’ve ever witnessed. Due to partisan bickering over unrelated issues, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was caught in the crossfire. It is incomprehensible as to why Congress has been unable to agree upon a long-term authorization of the FAA since 2007, thus requiring twenty-one extensions. Each of these short-term fixes – some lasting mere weeks – has fostered an uncertainty and fear at the FAA that their operating authority may be abruptly halted, vital programs shuttered and workers furloughed. This fear was realized on July 22nd with a partial shutdown.

As a result, 4,000 federal FAA employees nationwide were immediately furloughed, with nearly 650 locally at the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township affected. Airport construction projects were shutdown, including those at the Millville and Cape May County airports, impacting approximately 70,000 construction workers nationwide. Countless contractors and subcontractors were issued stop-work orders on the aviation modernization project known as NEXTGEN, threatening the livelihood of their small businesses and progress on the critical initiative.

In South Jersey, twenty-seven such stop-work orders were issued, affecting hundreds of private employees who contract with the FAA. In one case the two week shutdown and lack of revenue proved too burdensome to overcome, thus causing the small business to permanently shutter and its employees laid-off. With more than 9 percent unemployment nationally and double-digit unemployment in much of South Jersey, this shutdown inflicted avoidable cuts against an already wounded economy. Furthermore, it cost the Airport & Airway Trust Fund approximately $400 million in federal airline taxes over the two weeks, thus impacting future FAA projects.

From the beginning, I worked with House Speaker John Boehner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and my colleagues in the House and Senate to broker a compromise and end the partial shutdown. I pressed upon them the disastrous economic and national security consequences of allowing the work – and livelihoods – of thousands of FAA employees, contractors and subcontractors assigned to NEXTGEN be delayed. Equally threatening to the development and implementation of NEXTGEN across our aviation transportation network is the lack of reliable federal funding. While the economic realities facing our nation call for serious belt-tightening and detailed examination of our budgets, the NEXTGEN project remains a cost-effective investment for taxpayers. What it lacks is a commitment by Congress to provide consistent funding year after year – the type of funding a full four-year FAA authorization bill would provide.

The current FAA extension expires on September 16, thus leaving little time for Congress to consider and complete a full four-year authorization. While another extension will likely be required, this must be the last. We cannot continue this cycle of uncertainty for FAA employees and contractors working on the NEXTGEN project, nor consumers including the airlines who seek a safer, more efficient and more secure aviation network. It is in the nation’s shared interest for Congress to complete a four-year authorization of the FAA; it is in South Jersey’s significant interest to ensure the essential work on NEXTGEN is not further disrupted.

 

Impact of FAA Shutdown: Oakland International Airport

By Deborah Ale Flint
Director of Aviation, Port of Oakland

Exactly one month has passed since certainty in our national aviation system was placed into question.  Aviation is a source of pride for our country; especially at OAK where history was made with legendary flights across the Pacific.  In this global economy, the U.S. must continue our legacy as the best aviation system in the world. The efforts to modernize our infrastructure and be competitive in the future will suffer if there is no assurance for the foundation today.  It is important that we transport our operations and infrastructure into the next generation with a plan for funding beyond September 16.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Barbara Boxer have understood firsthand the impact at OAK and called  for short and long-term solution to the FAA Re-authorization. This week,  Senator Boxer was joined by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Port of Oakland Commission President Pamela Calloway, Executive Director Omar Benjamin,  Port Commissioner Victor Uno and local labor leaders at a press conference at OAK. They refocused attention on the serious impact at OAK and on our nation as a whole.

Construction stopped on a $31 million FAA air traffic control tower. This modern, green facility, which took 10 years to plan and secure funding, will replace two towers that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. The new 236 foot-tall tower will give air traffic controllers a better view of OAK’s 2,500-acres and will help improve airport efficiency as a consolidated tower operation.

Project delays resulted on Oak’s  Runway Safety Area Enhancements.  This critical program,  requires continued FAA participation, action, and funding to meet required milestone deadlines.  We all know how a single day can make the world of difference when it comes to progressing a safety project.

Stoppages to these projects represent not only delays in the progress of improving our nation’s airports, but loss of jobs for our nation’s economy.  The FAA partial shutdown forced 74,000 workers nationwide off the job. 60 of these were construction workers that were told not to report to work on OAK’s new control tower for two weeks. The Bay Area’s unemployment rate is over 10%. Our region cannot sustain this level of layoffs, whether temporary or permanent.

Recalling these construction workers back to work has been no easy task. Shutting down a project for over two weeks, during prime construction season, is no way to build a $31 million state-of-the-art air traffic control tower. As of last week, the project was operating with 90% of personnel.  Efficiencies were lost as some new workers were brought in and trained. Specialized equipment had been dispatched to other projects.  The project is slowly returning to full momentum. But, at what cost…

The San Francisco Bay Area is the fifth largest air service market in the United States. OAK, which is owned and operated by the Port of Oakland, is an economic engine for the Bay Area and is the airport closest to most Bay Area businesses and residents. OAK creates some 14,000 jobs through our airline and cargo carriers, concessions, and the many major construction projects underway at the airport. It is important that we continue to be a reliable gateway for Bay Area travelers, but also a reliable source for economic impact and jobs creation.

Let’s work together to bring back certainty to our national aviation system. Let’s allow the Aviation Industry to do what the American people need it to do, especially here in the Port-City of Oakland – create jobs and infrastructure critical for our country to be the center of global commerce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACI-NA Urges Secretary LaHood To Fully Fund AIP in FY 2013 Budget

By Debby McElroy

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President Greg Principato today wrote to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to fully fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) in the DOT’s FY 2013 proposed budget.

In his letter, Principato noted that “AIP is funded by the passengers who use the system for the purpose of ensuring safe and secure airport facilities”. He also stressed that AIP clearly meets the criteria of “investing in those areas critical to job creation and economic growth” discussed in Office of Management and Budget Director Lew’s August 17 memo” and urged Secretary LaHood to “identify AIP as a “priority investment” given the program’s excellent track record over the last two years in spurring economic growth and creating jobs in large and small communities.”