Thursday, March 13, 2014

Federal Aviation Administration says it will increase NextGen funding in Fiscal 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration says it is increasing funding in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal for the NextGen air traffic control system, not cutting funding, as some advocates of the system have warned.

The FAA will spend just over $1 billion on NextGen in the coming fiscal year, up from $901 million in 2014, the agency said today.

NextGen will replace the current radar-based system put in place after World War II with a satellite-based tracking system akin to those on mobile phones and automobile dashboards, which will trace plane movements more precisely. While NextGen is estimated to cost at least $40 billion and take more than a decade to implement, proponents say it will improve safety, reduce delays, increase airport capacity, and cut emissions and save money by reducing fuel consumption.

A Congressional panel chaired by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (D-2nd District) held a hearing Tuesday at the FAA's Hughes Technical Center, a national testing site at Atlantic City International Airport, which touched on NextGen's implementation.

Some advocates of the system, including those who believe it will help Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports meet the region's increasing demand for air travel, used the occasion to protest what they saw as a proposed 7-percent cut in NextGen funding, from $901 million in the current fiscal year to $836 million for 2015.

But the FAA said today that was an incomplete picture of NextGen's total proposed funding, which the agency said failed to take into account additional spending on the system proposed under other FAA programs.

"The budget proposal funds Next Gen at $836 million, with an additional $186 million from the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative," the FAA stated. "This budget continues to support NextGen programs that deliver benefits to users in the near term and aligns with recent recommendations made by aviation stakeholders on the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC). The agency's new NextGen leadership has been working closely with the NAC to identify and prioritize initiatives that will accelerate delivery of benefits to users."