The Edmond Sun

Local News

April 29, 2013

Lankford highlights Benghazi report, FAA furloughs

House panel to resume hearings next month

(Continued)

EDMOND — HOUSE PASSES FAA BILL

On Friday, the U.S. House passed a bill that would end air traffic control furloughs, a forced budget cuts-related issue responsible for delays at airports across the country.

Lankford said the disruption to the air traffic system was due to the Obama Administration’s choice to implement the cuts in a political way, and the FAA had enough resources on hand to avoid the delays.

On Friday, Lankford said he voted yes on House Resolution 1765 to clarify that the Federal Aviation Administration can target sequestration cuts so they don’t impact workers.

The bill permits the FAA to transfer $253 million in fiscal year 2013 to the operating budget, which can be used to end controller furloughs and reopen contract towers. It does not allocate additional funds or reverse the sequestration cuts for the FAA.

Agencies like the National Park Service were able to cut waste, not workers, and now the FAA should have no excuse to continue to furlough employees, Lankford said.

Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird said five of the 149 contract towers the FAA wanted to close on June 15 are located in Oklahoma City (Wiley Post Airport), Norman (OU’s Max Westheimer Airport), Fort Sill (Lawton Ft. Sill Regional Airport) and Stillwater (Stillwater Regional Airport). The tower at Ardmore Municipal is set to close Sept. 30, Bird said.

While there was no explicit language in the bill to keep the contract towers open, the $253 million figure specifically provides enough funding to eliminate both the air traffic controller furloughs ($220 million) and the closing of the contract towers ($33 million), Bird said.

The bill was passed by both the House and Senate during a 24-hour period, Bird said. The FAA was unsure how quickly it could change controller schedules to fully staff their facilities, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said the country should use savings from wrapping up the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to avoid the full brunt of the sequester’s arbitrary cuts. Reid has estimated the furloughs could lead to 6,700 delayed flights every day this summer.

Carney said if Congress wanted to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA the administration would be open to that.

“But that would be a Band-Aid measure,” he said.

The best way to deal with it is to eliminate it through broad, balanced deficit reduction along the lines the president proposed, the people support and the Senate passed, Carney said.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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