Eyeing difficult budget negotiations and the prospect of more sequestration cuts, a dozen aviation organizations are urging lawmakers to ensure that the contract tower program receives adequate funding and is shielded from potential dismantling.
The organizations, representing airports, local communities, business aviation, airlines and other interests, wrote the House and Senate Appropriations Committees endorsing language that dedicates $140 million in funding to the contract tower program.
The language is already included in the fiscal 2014 transportation funding bill, H.R.2610, and both House and Senate lawmakers have strongly endorsed the contract tower program. But the organizations are wary that the funding will become vulnerable to budget cuts.
“The inclusion of this important language as part of final legislation funding thefor FY 2014, in whatever form that may be, is absolutely critical to ensuring that operations continue throughout the fiscal year at the 251 FAA contract towers across the country,” the organizations say.
They pointed to FAA’s proposal earlier this year to eliminate funding for 149 contract towers, and say “it is clear that the program is on the FAA’s target list for FY 2014 as sequestration looms in the background.”
The proposed tower cuts last spring went further than other proposed FAA sequestration cuts, the groups say, adding that the congressional language in H.R.2610 will ensure the program is treated “equitably and fairly” and “it will provide certainty to local communities and protect this important and long-standing aviation safety program from being targeted for disproportionate cuts or elimination of service at certain airports.”
The organizations also urged the lawmakers to convey that the agency should not take action to phase out funding while the 2014 budget is still being debated.
Signing the Oct. 28 letter to the lawmakers were top executives from the U.S. Contract Tower Association/, The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Air Transportation Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Association of State Aviation Officials, Airports Council International – NA, Air Carrier Association of America, Air Traffic Control Association, Regional Airline Association, Cargo Airline Association, Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association and General Aviation Airport Coalition.