The House Appropriations Committee has added its opposition to the nascent debate over privatizing the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO). Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and other senior members of the committee wrote a letter (PDF) to the House leadership Monday saying air traffic management should remain a government function. “The annual oversight and funding role of Congress is critical to providing citizens and communities a voice, through their elected representatives, in the operation of our nation’s air traffic system,” the committee leaders wrote. “We are responsible not just to safeguard the day-to-day operations of air traffic but also to ensure that our communities — urban, suburban and rural — have fair and equitable access to air service.” The letter is likely the death knell for the privatization initiative that was first publicly discussed last year and has provoked widespread opposition among aviation groups.
The flurry of privatization news of late is the result of Congress’ apparent resolve to reauthorize FAA funding by the March 31 deadline without an extension after years of funding uncertainty for the agency. Privatization proponents have said political interference in the function of the system has created inefficiencies and slowed implementation of new technologies. So, the House representatives have turned the goal of improved performance back to the FAA. “While FAA can and should improve and accelerate the development of modernized air traffic systems, we do not believe the solution is less oversight and less accountability.”