Testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the FAA administrator said furloughs of air-traffic controllers – and hence flight delays – are unavoidable under the 'sequester.' House Republicans challenged his assessment.
Flight delays at US airports starting this week are unavoidable because of budget cuts, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration told Congress Wednesday, seeking to deflect Republican criticism.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency had to furlough control-tower staff, and it sees a rise in flight delays as an inescapable consequence of this spring's across-the-board federal spending cuts tied to legislation known as the “sequester.”
Republican lawmakers questioned that view at a budget hearing, suggesting that the spending cuts could be done differently and that the FAA had done a poor job preparing airports and airlines for this week’s cuts in staffing of air-traffic controllers.
Administrator Huerta said the FAA had given general warnings, back in February, that the budget cuts would require a roughly 10 percent reduction in control-tower staffing, affecting airports including major hubs.
“Well, lah-tee-dah. Everyone knew that,” Representative Rogers said.
Under questioning from Rogers, Huerta said airlines had “expressed great concern” when they heard details about the FAA cutbacks on April 16.
Another testy exchange was about whether Huerta kept the looming budget challenge too much to himself. Rogers asked whether Huerta has asked Congress for greater flexibility, so the sequester cuts wouldn't fall so harshly on traffic control.
“No,” Huerta said.
“That's what I thought,” Rogers responded.
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