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The Subcommittee will come to order. Already this year, the Subcommittee has had three hearings on the topic of transportation security. It was my hope that our hearing today could focus solely on the issues of aviation safety and capacity. Those were the two critical aviation issues this Subcommittee was most focused on prior to September 11th. And now, even with all that must be attended to in the area of aviation security, I still believe that we must attend to them.

Before September 11th, air traffic was growing at a rapid rate, as was our economy. We were celebrating a historically long period without a major domestic airline disaster even while air traffic was reaching historic highs. The events of September 11th did much to depress air traffic. And then, on November 12th , American Airlines flight 587 plunged into Rockway Beach, Queens - the result of a clear safety failure.

Today, we are starting to see air traffic return in some markets to pre-September 11th levels. Our aviation industry and our national commercial aviation enterprise is trying to get back to normal, even as we all worry that the next terrorist attack may be right around the corner.

We are beginning to see the fruits of certain FAA investments to improve the efficiency of our aviation system.

We have finally begun installing ground proximity radars to prevent runway incursions. I was pleased to host our witness, Administrator Garvey in Seattle two weeks ago for such an event.

We have installed new technologies in some of our busiest control towers to keep airplanes moving during the summer storm season.

At the same time, we continue to see either performance or cost problems with some of the most important FAA procurements on the horizon:

  • Performance problems with the new ASR-11 Radars, which are expected to replace the aging analog radars at airports;
  • Cost overruns associated with the STARS program which will provide new, desperately needed displays and computer equipment for air traffic controllers; and
  • Diminishing expectations of what the WAAS program can provide - a program designed to move the aviation industry into the era of satellite navigation.
While it would be valuable and instructive to focus on just these issues alone, I am finding that, as I wade into the details of the Administration's Aviation Budget, it is impossible to ignore the issues surrounding the financing of aviation security.

Notwithstanding the fact that this Subcommittee fully funded the FAA's operations budget request last year and granted several hundred million dollars more for emerging security needs, the FAA is currently contemplating a number of austerity measures for the current year due to the lack of available funds. These austerity measures include:

  • A hiring freeze on all air traffic employees that are not air traffic controllers or maintenance technicians;
  • Delaying the hiring of new air traffic controllers;
  • Reducing maintenance on redundant safety systems; and
  • Reducing training for air traffic controllers.
On top of those challenges, the FAA has had to urgently invest $100 million in order to better protect its own air traffic control facilities against a potential terrorist threat. At least, in this case, the Administration has asked us to provide the FAA with an extra $100 million, but it has done so in a most misguided manner.

Rather than ask for an emergency appropriation similar to the $4.4 billion in additional funding that has been requested for the Transportation Security Administration, the Administration is asking that this $100 million be diverted from funds already appropriated for capital investments in the FAA's Facilities and Equipment Program and the Airport Improvement Program.

This proposal comes at a time when the FAA is already required to divert funds away from its capital needs. In order to continue the operations of the Essential Air Service program, Administrator Garvey must divert $50 million from existing capital programs. There is also roughly $25 million that needs to be rescinded as a result of Congressional action.

And finally, there is an additional $38 million that must be found to keep the STARS program on schedule because of cost overruns that have burdened that program. So I don't see the wisdom in cutting capital investments further to pay for the protection of FAA facilities. We should appropriate these emergency security funds in the same way that we fund the urgent needs of the Transportation Security Administration.

As I review the Administration's plans to implement the Transportation Security Act, it is clear that there will be a continuing tension between the needs for safety and the needs for security. The Transportation Security Act allows funds appropriated to the Airport Improvement Program - our priority grant program for airport safety and capacity enhancements - to be used for security-related expenditures for 2002 only. The hope at the time the Security Act was written was to help the airports cover a portion of their costs associated with hiring additional law enforcement personnel and other security expenditures.

I am now concerned by indications that the Administration is looking to use the entire AIP program, all $3.3 billion, as a funding source for the installation of new explosive detection systems. While I support the investment in security, I do not think it is wise to suspend an entire year of federal investment in projects designed to help our industry grow and ensure the safety of the flying public.

While the Administration's supplemental budget request for an additional $4.4 billion for the TSA was submitted to Congress almost a month ago, they still have been unwilling to brief this Subcommittee on the details of their plans to purchase and install explosive detection machines. Those machines will be needed to comply with the requirement to screen all checked bags by the end of the year. But the nation's airports, like this Subcommittee, cannot get any straight answers out of the Administration as to how this requirement is going to be met. Clearly, the Administration is struggling internally to determine how or whether it will implement: the letter of the Security Act; the spirit of the Security Act; or its own unique interpretation of the Security Act.

I, for one, do not believe that we can afford to take a full year hiatus from investing in our critical safety and capacity projects at our nation's airports.

We should not divert every dollar of airport grant funding for security expenditures. If we allow this to happen, we will once again find ourselves struggling to handle a growing number of delays and congestion at our nation's airports. Those security expenditures need to be paid for and should not be done at the cost of safety and capacity projects.