June 16, 2009

Statement of J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator

Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation on FY 2010 FAA Budget (Oral Testimony as prepared for delivery)


Good morning Chairman Olver, Ranking Member Latham, and distinguished Members of this subcommittee. It is a pleasure to be able to appear before you today to discuss the Administration's budget request for FY 2010. I want you to know that I respect your important role in the budget process and I look forward to working closely with you in the years to come.

Because aviation safety is my primary duty and I do not take that charge lightly: let me start by saying that this is a budget that enables the FAA to pursue our paramount mission — advancing operational safety throughout the National Airspace System.

That being said, I am aware that you don't have to turn too many pages in the newspaper to see that we find ourselves in complicated financial times. So I also want to stress that this is a fiscally responsible request that will help us deliver on all of our performance goals.

Our FY 2010 budget request of $15.9 billion maintains safety and capacity gains while providing investments to meet future system demands.

We've made commitments to you, to the President and to the taxpayer about controller and safety staffing, aviation research, as well as investment in infrastructure, airports, and NextGen. This budget enables us to meet those commitments while we deliver the aviation system of the future.

Please allow me to detail some of the larger numbers in the Operations submission. The FY 2010 request of $9.3 billion includes $7.3 billion for the Air Traffic Organization, $1.2 billion for Aviation Safety, and the balance for support staff as well as Commercial Space Transportation.

The equation is simple: run the system safely and look to the future through NextGen and commercial space investment. You'll be pleased to know that the budget funds the hiring of additional air traffic controllers, aviation safety staff, and NextGen staff as well.

I'd like to discuss our 10-year strategy for the air traffic control workforce. It calls for a net increase of 107 controllers in FY 2010, and we expect to hire over 1,700 controllers next year to reach that goal. Most importantly, our controller workforce strategy allows us to put the right number of trained controllers in the right place at the right time. In the last four years, FAA has hired more than 5,600 new air traffic controllers. That exceeded the original goal by 40 percent. Flying as much as you and I do, knowing that the government is taking steps to match the number of controllers with traffic volume and workload is reassuring. I have heard there are areas where we don't yet have the balance right, but I plan to make sure as we continue to bring these new employees on board we carefully manage the process to ensure that our trainees progress in a timely manner and are hired in the places we need them.

I also want to assure you that I intend to consider the staffing and training concerns of our controller workforce. They are truly on the front lines — I respect their hard work and I value their input. For now I want you to know that we're hiring more controllers faster than ever. We are providing them with quality training. They're making the grade, and so are we.

Let me diverge for a moment and address labor stability at the agency. As you know, talks are under way. I'm optimistic. The talks are proceeding well, both sides are at the table, and I think we'll reach an agreement. The best agreements are reached when everyone wants an agreement, and right now there is both that desire and a positive atmosphere.

As far as labor stability is concerned, I want you to know that I'm not just talking about getting our biggest union squared away. I'm also talking about the other seven unions we have. And I'm also talking about the 15,000 employees we have who aren't part of a union.

We need to restore confidence for the entire workforce. We need to make sure we have accountability and credibility across the board. I want to see all 45,000 move with confidence in their skills and pride in their work. I don't see that now. We've got to get that restored.

With all of that as context, I appreciate the help you are providing as we make headway with our inspector workforce. As a result of the staffing additions in FY 2007-2009, we now have 4,245 safety inspectors. The FY 2010 request maintains this increased level while increasing total Aviation Safety staffing by 30 positions. The requested staffing increase is consistent with the updated Aviation Safety Workforce Plan.

Recognizing that FAA's future workforce may be very different from today, last year we engaged the National Academy of Public Administration to help identify the skills needed to accomplish the transition to NextGen. To respond to their recommendations, FAA included $7 million to hire 104 technical staff in the ATO operational service units to support the development and deployment of the NextGen suite of applications. These additional staff will identify transition requirements, develop procedures, coordinate with industry and stakeholders, and perform operational impact analyses.

For Facilities & Equipment, this budget maintains the capacity and safety of the National Airspace System while keeping our comprehensive modernization and transformation efforts on track. The request of $2.9 billion represents a healthy 6.7 percent increase above the FY 2009 enacted level. The bulk of our investment — just slightly above $2 billion — will be spent in legacy areas. In many ways, this is the heart of the infrastructure and includes things like power systems, information technology, navigational aids, and weather systems.

Looking to the future, the NextGen portfolio for F&E grows to $790 million, a 24 percent increase. The NextGen transformational programs, such as ADS-B, System Wide Information Management , Data Communications, and NAS Voice Switch are funded at $372 million. Approximately $392 million is provided for NextGen demonstrations, system development, and "enabling" activities.

Our RE&D funding request is a 5.3 percent increase. This year, we're increasing our emphasis on fire safety, propulsion and fuel systems, advanced materials, and aging aircraft. We are requesting a 15 percent increase for our RE&D NextGen portfolio to about $65 million. This will support enhanced NextGen research and development efforts in the areas of air to ground integration, weather information in the cockpit, and environmental research for aircraft technologies, fuels, and metrics.

Our request also takes care of airports, which this administration recognizes are an essential part of the aviation system infrastructure. As you know, their design, structural integrity, and ongoing maintenance have a direct impact on safety, capacity, and efficiency. The FY 2010 request of $3.5 billion allows us to continue our focus on safety-related development projects, including runway safety area improvements, runway incursion reduction, aviation safety management, and improving infrastructure conditions.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the FY 2010 budget provides a total of $865 million in support of NextGen, a 24 percent increase. Step by step and procedure by procedure, we are increasing the integration between aircraft and ground-based technologies. Both the Secretary and I have made the delivery of NextGen one of our highest priorities, and I will be looking hard at every opportunity we can employ to accelerate this transformation and the efficiency and environmental benefits it will provide.

But I must underscore that our drive toward NextGen will find success only through collaboration. We are bringing all parties to the table — our employees, the industry, the manufacturers — to make sure that our focus remains where it belongs. The tragic accidents over the past few months are ever-present reminders that we must maintain our vigilance. My testimony this morning is a commitment that we intend to do just that. Thank you. My staff and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

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