Tough Times

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Budget Crunch Squeezes FAA...

Money's tight all over, and as the U.S. House and Senate wrangle over the latest version of a budget bill for 2003, the cash deficit could translate to staff cuts for the FAA. Last week, the Senate passed a $390 billion "omnibus" budget bill, lumping together all the departments and agencies -- and it shortchanged the FAA's operating budget by $30 million. The House is expected to lobby for even less spending overall, and the end result -- due sometime next month -- is not likely to be brimming with good news. The Senate bill would give the FAA more than $7 billion for operations, but another cut of $200 million is expected before all is said and done, AviationNow reported this week. With mandated raises and a budget lower than last year's, the FAA's staff-intensive operation would have few options for making up the shortfall other than to cut jobs, sources told AviationNow.

...Despite Efforts At Cost Cutting

In its budget proposal, the FAA offers reductions of $149 million for security tasks transferred to the TSA, and additional savings of $111 million, mostly from eliminating (through attrition) about 400 jobs in Air Traffic Services. The agency proposes to cut funding altogether for a few programs, including $2 million for the Mid-America Aviation Resource Consortium and $6 million for contract tower cost sharing. Mandatory increases for raises and new hires total $398 million. The budget also promises to establish a performance-based operation for air traffic in 2003, with a chief operating officer at its head. While the budget battle wages in Washington, AOPA warned last week that budget deficits at the state level also threaten airport funding. Minnesota legislators, for example, have proposed to raid $15 million from the state airports to boost the sagging general fund. Aviation budgets in Arizona, California, Virginia, and Florida are also being watched, AOPA said.