May 31, 2011
With Congress poised to continue action on FAA reauthorization legislation and to begin work in earnest on TSA authorization legislation and annual spending measures covering DHS, DOT and their component agencies, the next few months promise to be very busy in Washington, D.C., on policy and funding issues of importance to airports.
On the FAA reauthorization front, House and Senate staff continue to meet regularly to resolve differences between the bills previously passed by their respective chambers. While the ongoing negotiations have been productive, a number of tricky issues remain – several of which will require a concerted effort by lawmakers to resolve. Notably, negotiators have yet to reach an agreement on the overall proposed funding levels for key programs, including AIP and the Essential Air Service Program.
Congress last week passed yet another temporary extension of FAA programs and taxes through the end of June, and negotiators hope to reach a final agreement on a long-term FAA bill before then to avoid the need for another temporary fix – which would be the 20th. Although it is possible that an agreement can be reached before the end of June, several key congressional leaders have noted recently that the overall budget environment and differences in philosophy between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate have complicated efforts to reach a final deal.
While the authorizing committees continue to wrangle with longer-term policy and funding questions as part of the FAA reauthorization debate, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees responsible for the annual budget for DOT and FAA soon will begin to assemble bills providing funding for the fiscal year (2012) that begins on Oct. 1. With many in Washington calling for major reductions in federal funding and with AIP having been targeted for cuts from members of both parties and by the administration, the fight to maintain funding for AIP and other important programs promises to be difficult.
On the security front, the House this week is expected to consider the fiscal year 2012 funding bill for DHS and its component agencies. The measure, which passed the House Appropriations Committee last week, proposes $472 million for the purchase and installation of explosives detection equipment in airports. The measure also proposes to continue the cap on TSA screener personnel at 46,000 but encourages the agency to focus on a 10-minute standard for passenger screening. AAAE Airport Legislative Alliance members can view a full summary of the House DHS spending bill on the aaae.org website.
Also on the security front, TSA Administrator John Pistole is scheduled to appear before the House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee on Thursday to discuss authorizing the agency’s programs for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Committee leaders have noted that they will pursue TSA authorization legislation in the weeks ahead.
Source: AVIATION NEWS NETWORK