President Bush on Tuesday signed an Executive Order to mandate that modernizing our national airspace system remains a leading priority for federal agencies. "At an age when teenage drivers use GPS systems in their cars, air traffic controllers still use World War II-era radar to guide modern jumbo jets," Mr. Bush said. "That doesn't seem to make any sense to me ... Modernizing our aviation system is an urgent challenge." He also called on Congress to "help make our transportation system worthy of the 21st century," by providing incentives for the private sector to develop new technologies and investing in infrastructure upgrades. According to a White House fact sheet, the Executive Order will "help transform the national air transportation system and effectively implement the NextGen Initiative (Next Generation Air Transportation System) that utilizes satellite-based guidance technology, which is safer, more secure, affordable, and environmentally friendly." The action aims to strengthen the DOT's coordination with other federal agencies. But according to Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, "[The executive order] certainly appears like yet another new red bow on the same old box, which remains empty. Is the administration now saying modernizing our aviation system was NOT a leading priority up until today?"
Mr. Bush also announced a package of proposals aimed at relieving delays and congestion in commercial air travel during the holiday season. Military airspace will be opened for certain areas, three new runways at major airports will open this week, and more TSA workers will be on duty to prevent long waiting lines for passengers.