U.S. SEQUESTRATION UPDATE--CONCERNS & POTENTIAL IMPACTS

 

Executive Summary:If Congress and the President do not resolve the mandatory “sequester” budget cuts by March 1, airports could be affected by furloughs of FAA, TSA and CBP personnel. The federal agencies have provided general information about the impact of the budget cuts, but to date have not provided any data that could be of assistance to airports in contingency planning for the impact at their facilities. Other aviation stakeholders have also noted that only limited information has been provided regarding sequestration impacts. For example, Dan Elwell, Senior Vice President, Safety, Security and Operations with Airlines for America (A4A), this afternoon told Politico that the airlines are awaiting “more granularity” from the FAA on how the cuts will affect operations.

Today ACI-NA President Greg Principato contacted FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, TSA Administrator John Pistole and CBP Acting Commissioner David Aguilar requesting additional information and that airports be included in any briefing the agencies conduct on the impact of sequestration cuts. ACI-NA also encourages airports to reach out to local airline, FAA, TSA and (if applicable) CBP officials to determine if additional information is available or contingency plans have been developed.

Issue:Sequestration will impose mandatory budget cuts throughout the federal government, which may in turn drive furloughs of federal employees and contractors. Furloughs of air traffic controllers could result in FAA working with airlines to reduce flights. Furloughs of TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) could result in increased wait times at airport security checkpoints. Furloughs of CBP officers could result in increased delays in processing international arriving passengers.  Fortunately, under current law, programs and projects funded under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) are exempt from sequestration and would continue to operate at current funding levels.

Who is Impacted: Airports in the United States and Canadian airports with preclearance facilities.

What is ACI-NA Doing: ACI-NA has been warning Members of Congress of the devastating impacts sequestration could have on airport operations, particularly with the probability of hundreds, even thousands, of key FAA, TSA and CBP personnel being furloughed.  ACI-NA has also been active in reaching out to those agencies, asking that they coordinate their sequestration plans with airports to try to mitigate as many of the negative effects as possible.  We will keep you updated as we learn more over the next week.

Suggested Airport Action: ACI-NA encourages airports to reach out to local airline, FAA, TSA and (if applicable) CBP officials to determine if additional information is available or contingency plans have been developed. Please provide Chris Oswaldany pertinent information.

Background:Sequestration or sequester cuts refer to the mandatory budget cuts that are evenly split between defense and domestic discretionary spending. The fiscal cliff deal reached in January changed the amount of spending cuts (now $85 billion) and the date for sequestration (now March 1). The federal agencies have only released very general information on the impact and timing of their budget cuts. See below for agency specific information:

FAA: In a memo sent to FAA employees, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta stated that under sequestration “all cost reduction options are on the table, and we will take all reasonable measures to avoid proposing furloughs.  However, given the magnitude of the shortfall we face, it is likely that significant federal employee furloughs and drastic reductions in services performed by contract personnel would be necessary”. According to internal FAA guidance “If sequestration occurs on March 1, a majority of FAA's nearly 47,000employees would need to be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year in September, with a maximum of two days per pay period.  DOT Secretary Ray LaHood states that sequestration would require FAA to undergo a funding cut of more than $600 million, resulting in significant employee furloughs.    He makes clear that these furloughs “will require a reduction in air traffic to a level that can be safely managed by the remaining staff.  The result will be felt across the country, as the volume of travel must be decreased”.  As noted above, under current law, programs and projects funded under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) are exempt from sequestration and would continue to operate at current funding levels.

TSA: DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that reductions in TSA staff will increase wait times at airports. A report from the Democratic House Appropriations Committee stated that TSA would reduce its frontline workforce, including a seven-day furlough for TSA screeners, which may result in increased passenger wait times by as much as an additional hour at the nation’s largest and busiest airport security checkpoints.

CBP:DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano states that under sequestration “CBP would not be able to maintain current staffing levels of Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers as mandated by Congress.  Funding and staffing reductions will increase wait times at airports, affect security between land ports of entry, affect CBP’s ability to collect revenue owed to the Federal Government, and slow screening and entry programs for those traveling to the United States”. 

On February 21, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents CBP employees, issued a press release regarding the potential effects of sequestration on CBP’s missions and staff.  The release indicates CBP will have to cut $754 million from March 1 to September 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year and that agency-wide furloughs could be issued in mid-March of up to 14 days. Also that Secretary Napolitano has said that beginning April 1, CBP would have to reduce its work force by the equivalent of over 2,750 CBP Officers and that officers could lose more than two days of pay each month on top of a pay freeze of 27 months. Additionally CBP cuts will include reductions in overtime, travel and training, an agency-wide hiring freeze including front-line vacancies, and adjustments to composition of work units. 

ACI-NA Contact: Chris Oswald (202-293-4539)