Congressman Nadler statement blasting Air Traffic Control privatization scheme

Feb 10, 2016 Issues: Transportation, Jobs, Labor and the Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, delivered the following statement opposing the Air Traffic Control privatization scheme, calling it an “extreme and risky venture” that will “set back our efforts to modernize our aviation system and ensure the safety of the flying public”. 

Below is the full statement Rep. Nadler delivered in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Just two months ago, this committee enacted a major surface transportation bill that made significant improvements to our highway, transit and rail system. That bill was developed in a bipartisan manner, and passed overwhelmingly. Unfortunately, the FAA bill represents a departure from the bipartisan tradition of this committee that has been so successful under Chairman Shuster’s leadership, and will set back our efforts to modernize our aviation system and ensure the safety of the flying public.

“This Republican Air Traffic Control privatization scheme is an extreme and risky venture that will hand over control of our air space to the major airlines. Why are we wasting time with this drastic proposal when the program expires in March? One of the stated motivations is that we need to speed up modernizing our air space and the installation of NextGen technology. But progress is finally being made on that front. Completely disrupting the ATC system and splitting up the FAA will likely set back NextGen implementation by several years. So modernization cannot be the real motivation.

“The other stated reason some support this plan is to preclude furloughs and delays caused by budget cuts and possible government shutdowns. There is, of course, a much simpler and safer solution. Just don’t shut down the government. Nor should we risk the safety of the flying public because a few Members of Congress and Senators (arguably, one Senator) want to impose drastic budget cuts or hold the budget hostage in an attempt to enact an extreme agenda. And even if this plan were to go through, the rest of the FAA, including safety inspectors, would still be vulnerable to sequestration and shutdowns.

“Mr. DeFazio and Mr. Larsen have offered reasonable solutions to address any legitimate concerns that have been raised with respect to airspace modernization and budget uncertainty, but, so far, their suggestions have been rejected. Which leaves as the only real reason a simple ideological devotion to privatizing everything, and eliminating as much government as possible. If Air Traffic Control isn’t an inherently governmental function, what is?

“Proponents of the bill would give away billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded assets to the airlines. The FAA, and thus federal taxpayers, have invested at least $53.5 billion over the past 20 years in these assets. Some of the same Members who complain about the deficit and rail against federal spending are perfectly willing to give away $53 billion of government property to private companies as a gift. That’s more than we spent on the entire NIH budget last year. That’s more than we spent last year on the TSA, VA Medical Services, Clean Water and Drinking Water funds, Section 8, HOPWA, Ryan White, Head Start, Energy Efficiency, and Violence Against Women combined.  We can’t provide $600 million for the Flint water crisis, but we can giveaway $53 billion to the airlines? This bill goes beyond a public policy disagreement. It is a complete special interest giveaway.  

“Supporters of the bill will claim that ATC will be managed by a “nonprofit” entity. But make no mistake. This so-called “non-profit” is dominated by for-profit airlines. The same companies that nickel and dime you for baggage and leg room will be making decisions about routes and taxing the public to manage the airspace.

“Luckily, there are many groups and Members on both sides of the aisle in both chambers who see this crazy plan for what it is. And it is worth commending Delta Airlines for acting responsibly, and outlining numerous concerns with this privatization scheme in the very detailed letter referenced by Mr. DeFazio. As Delta points out, the U.S. has over 13,000 airports and about 7,000 aircraft in flight at any one time. U.S. airspace is dense, congested, diverse and unique. Privatization has never been attempted in airspace of this nature, nor should it be. Performing an unprecedented and uncontrolled experiment on the American flying public will be risky, unsafe, and unfair to the flying public and to taxpayers.”