Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao faced continued criticism from Republicans and Democrats over the Administration’s proposal to corporatize the air traffic control system at a hearing held Thursday by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.
Chao, who appeared before the panel to discuss the FY 2018 budget request for DOT, said that the President’s proposal to separate the ATC system from the FAA and house it in a not-for-profit corporation will speed the implementation of new technology. She added that under the current system, the FAA Air Traffic Organization regulates its own safety, which she described as a “long-standing conflict of interest.”
Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said that he “has not been shy in saying that we should maintain an air traffic control system that’s accountable to the public.” Diaz-Balart said that the Administration’s ATC proposal would create “in essence a corporate monopoly.” He noted that he is generally a supporter of privatization efforts, but the ATC plan “isn’t privatization, it’s a corporate monopoly.” Diaz-Balart said that the existing ATC system is owned by the public and should be accountable to the public, which can only be accomplished by continued oversight by Congress.
Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) said in his opening statement that he has “grave concerns” about the ATC proposal. Price said that shifting ATC away from the FAA would reduce transparency and oversight while allowing fee increases, represent a major giveaway of taxpayer assets, and threaten progress in implementing NextGen.
AAAE Federal Affairs members can get a full summary of the hearing here.