Calls to Privatize the FAA Follow Controller Furloughs and Airport Delays

By:  Bob Adelmann
Calls to Privatize the FAA Follow Controller Furloughs and Airport Delays

Calls to privatize government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are likely to fall on deaf ears until the government runs out of money.

It didn't take long for calls to privatize the FAA to surface following the agency’s announcement on Sunday that due to sequester cuts of $637 million (out of its $16 billion budget), all 47,000 of its employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers, were being furloughed. The resulting delays were especially noticeable at high-traffic centers like New York City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Los Angeles. FAA Administrator Michael Hurta said his agency “could find no other way” to respond to the mandated cuts but to inflict maximum pain on travelers dependent upon schedules and efficiency.

Peter Ferrara, writing at the American Spectator, said the cuts were deliberate, designed to score political points and pin the blame for the delays on recalcitrant Republicans:

If you are an air traveler this week, you might get a dose of how it feels to be deliberately abused by your government to score political points….

This week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began imposing artificial, unnecessary delays on air travel, particularly out of high profile airports around New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. The FAA and the Obama Administration blame that on the sequester cuts, which they blame on the Republicans.

Chris Edwards, editor of the Cato Institute’s Downsizing Government project, said that the real problem is that the FAA is run like a bureaucracy instead of like a business. It has suffered for years from cost overruns, the inability to manage new software programs designed to smooth traffic flow, and lack of accountability.

For example, in 2004 the agency embarked on a massive upgrade called NextGen, with an estimated cost of $2 billion. It was supposed to be fully operational by the end of 2010, but delays pushed it back for a year. Then, in June 2011, the project was “rebaselined” and a new target date of 2014 was established for full implementation, along with an estimated cost overrun of $330 million. According to Aviation Week, that was too optimistic and further delays are likely, and the cost overruns will likely exceed $500 million.

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