April 24, 2013

Statement of Michael Huerta, Administrator

Before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development on FAA's 2014 Budget Request


Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Chairman Latham, Ranking Member Pastor, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the FAA’s 2014 budget request. 

As you are aware, this is my first appearance before you as the confirmed Administrator of the FAA. We have a great number of challenges and opportunities ahead, and I look forward to a long and effective relationship with this subcommittee.

The FAA’s fiscal year 2014 budget request is $15.6 billion. The budget upholds our critical safety programs, while also deploying key NextGen benefits to our stakeholders, and modernizing our aviation infrastructure. It does this at funding levels that are $351 million lower than fiscal year 2012. This is a 2.2 percent decrease, which is part of the President’s overall effort to reduce the deficit.

The FAA’s proposed budget for 2014 assumes a long-term solution to our nation’s budget deficit and no sequester.

The 2014 proposed budget would allow us to maintain staffing for air traffic control and aviation safety. It would allow us to maintain capital investment in both airport infrastructure and FAA facilities and equipment, and fund research and development.

The budget requests $1 billion for NextGen, which is an increase of about 7 percent above 2012. This request would help us to continue to mitigate congestion in busy airspace above metropolitan areas. And it would help us with the continued deployment of radio transceivers that allow us to use very precise satellite-based information to control air traffic.

The FAA is requesting $9.7 billion in our Operations account. This represents an increase of just about a half a percent above the FY 2012 level. This request will enable us to run the agency on a day-to-day basis. It ensures the safe operation of the airlines and the certification of new aviation products. It would also enhance the safety of the commercial space transportation industry, and provide overall policy oversight and management of our airspace.

The Operations budget includes an additional $30 million to maintain and operate the new En Route Automation Modernization system, or ERAM, that became operational in the last two years.

ERAM is at the heart of NextGen. It helps us to advance our transition from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management.

The 2014 budget also allows the FAA to meet the dual challenge of maintaining the capacity and the safety of the current system while moving forward with our comprehensive modernization and transformation efforts.

The majority of the $2.8 billion requested for facilities and equipment is to sustain legacy areas. This includes aging infrastructure, power systems, information technology, navigational aids, and weather systems.

This year’s request for Research, Engineering, and Development is $166 million, a decrease of 1 percent from 2012. We intend to continue critical research in NextGen and other areas such as: fire research and safety; propulsion and fuel systems; advanced materials research; alternative fuels; aging aircraft; and unmanned aircraft systems.

Our budget emphasizes cost efficiency and reflects the hard choices we must make to provide the most benefit to the flying public.As a result, we are proposing to modify the mix of funding available for airport development projects.  

The budget would allow commercial service airports to increase Passenger Facility Charges from the current maximum of $4.50 to $8.00. This gives airports greater flexibility to generate more of their own revenue. And it allows us to reduce our request for the ongoing airport grants program by $450 million.  

This change focuses federal resources on smaller airports that don’t have the passenger volume to generate their own revenue, yet are still important to our nation’s air transportation network.

The President’s 2014 budget request represents a balanced approach to achieving a long-term solution to our nation’s budgetary challenges. This is critical when one considers the impact of the sequester on our aviation system. The cuts required by the sequester have forced us to slash contract expenses and furlough 47,000 of our employees for up to one day every two weeks.

With 10 percent fewer hours available from each employee, there will be impacts on all FAA operations.

At air traffic facilities, this imposes limits on the amount of air traffic that we can safely allow to take off and land.

It means that our safety inspectors will work fewer hours and it will take longer to certify new aircraft for the market.

I want to emphasize that as we undergo the difficult process of implementing these deep cuts, we refuse to sacrifice safety–even if this means less efficient operations. Since February we have publicly described the possible effects of the sequester. And over the past few weeks we have been working with our industry partners, including the airlines, to share more detailed information on the impacts we expect at our nation’s largest airports. We are tracking airport delays throughout the system and making adjustments where possible to minimize delays.

It is my hope that we can work together to rally around our nation’s air transportation system and protect the great contribution that civil aviation makes to our economy.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

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