Good morning, Chairman Cole, Ranking Member Quigley, and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA operates the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world. But this has not come by accident. Simply put: Safety is not free. The recent close calls remind us that safety requires continuous, predictable, and robust funding.
The President’s budget request of $19.8 billion for the next fiscal year, combined with the $5 billion the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides to reduce the backlog of airport and air traffic projects, is critical to maintain our safety record. This is especially important in two key areas of the FAA’s work: operation of the air traffic system and our oversight of airlines, manufacturers, and crews.
This budget requests an additional $26.2 million over this year’s budget to strengthen our safety oversight in several areas. This amount includes funding for 53 new positions to complete implementation of the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act. It also addresses recommendations from recent investigations and independent reviews following the Boeing 737 MAX accidents.
Additional funding for 72 positions will supplement existing core safety programs, including efforts to improve certification of small airplanes, safety data analysis, and other key aviation safety activities. The remaining funding will strengthen aviation and hazardous materials safety oversight, a critical component of our overall strategy.
We expect that air traffic will meet or exceed pre-pandemic levels this year, and we don’t see that growth slowing down. To deliver the safe services everyone expects, the budget seeks $117 million to increase the hiring of air traffic controllers and to reduce the air traffic controller training backlog created during COVID.
We plan to hire 1,800 trainees in FY 2024, an increase of 300 above the 1,500 we are hiring this fiscal year.
Funding to hire and train air traffic controllers is only part of the equation. They need modern equipment and fully maintained buildings to perform their duty. One such piece of equipment is the NOTAM system. This request includes $19.6 million to retire our aging databases and applications and move to a more reliable, modern system. The request takes our modernization efforts one step further by providing $115 million toward accelerating other priority projects. This funding will allow the FAA the flexibility to respond to unexpected events and to increase capital investments when needed.
But we cannot modernize for tomorrow if we don’t keep pace for today. Many of our air traffic buildings need urgent attention. The budget asks for $510.8 million in the Facilities & Equipment account to improve our air traffic control facilities. Our backlog of uncompleted renovations and repairs for facilities that directly support operations is $5.3 billion. The average en route traffic center or combined control building is 61 years old. More than 50 percent of the terminal radar control facilities are more than 40 years old.
Members of the committee, civil aviation makes up more than 5 percent of the United States’ GDP. The funding that you provide is a worthwhile investment in our country’s future. This is not hyperbole: The budget cuts that have been considered by some would be raw, they would be deep, and they would be impactful to the flying public. Cuts will slow modernization of old systems, hobble our effort to train more controllers, and jeopardize our work to usher in the next era of aviation.
I can guarantee you the FAA will be good stewards of the funding you provide. We look forward to your support, and I am happy to take your questions.