Thursday, March 17, 2022

Congressman Van Drew Declares Victory Over the Federal Aviation Administration

Congressman Jeff Van Drew

Many congressmen, such as New Jersey 3rd Congressional District Representative Andy Kim, were excited about what the huge 2,741-page, $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which was approved by both the House and Senate last week, can do for their districts.

On the other hand, Jeff Van Drew, who represents the sprawling New Jersey 2nd Congressional District, was thrilled about what wasn’t in the omnibus spending act.

“Today,” read a March 11 press release from his office, “Congressman Van Drew announced a huge win for South Jersey – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reorganization request was rejected by Congress. This reorganization plan would have moved major parts of the FAA out of South Jersey and would have given the Washington, D.C. Bureaucracy control over the FAA, costing hundreds of local jobs.”

The FAA’s reorganization plan would have gutted the William J. Hughes Technical Center, a more than 5,000-acre complex located 10 miles northwest of Atlantic City. The FAA itself calls the center, named after the popular Democratic who represented the 2nd District from 1975 to 1995, “the nation’s premier federal aviation laboratory for advancing the United States National Airspace System (NAS) and sustaining its continued safe and efficient operations.” It is currently involved with such projects as the FAA’s NextGen program, which is attempting to modernize the nation’s air traffic system for years to come, and is even dipping its toes into the exciting possibility of unmanned aircraft systems.

The center also plays a large part in the South Jersey economy, responsible for some 5,240 jobs and injecting approximately $900 million a year in economic activity in seven counties. Some of the center’s tenants – the Transportation Security Administration Training Center, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing and, especially, the Atlantic City International Airport – are more familiar with the public than the FAA’s labs.

“Since August of 2021,” Van Drew’s office’s press release continued, “Congressman Van Drew has worked with various entities to develop a strategy to defeat the FAA’s reorganization request. The proposal would put South Jersey jobs at risk and adversely affect the William J. Hughes Technical Center. Congressman Van Drew questioned and spoke with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on multiple occasions expressing the serious concerns he had with the proposal. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Congressman Van Drew serves on, sent a letter to the FAA echoing Congressman Van Drew’s position that the FAA should not move forward with the proposal.”

“I am proud to announce that South Jersey jobs have been saved and through our due diligence, the FAA’s reorganization request was rejected by Congress,” Van Drew himself said.

“This is a huge win for South Jersey,” he continued, “and through the rejection of this D.C. land grab, we can now move forward to advance the Technical Center while keeping jobs intact and do not inadvertently diminish the facility through bad proposals. Moving forward, I am focused on improving infrastructure at the Atlantic City International Airport and am currently working on legislation to improve FAA policies and expand the Technical Center’s role in being up to speed with emerging technologies.”

Van Drew had plenty of support in his battle with the FAA. Unions such as the National Federation of Federal Employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and the American Federation of Government Employees were on board with the congressman. And the effort was bipartisan in nature, with New Jersey Senators Corey A. Booker and Robert Menendez joining the fight.

According to Van Drew, the FAA didn’t officially withdraw its reorganization proposal, but Administrator Dickson, who will resign his position on March 31, didn’t push for it, either. Dickson likely realized it would be a losing battle to ask for monies to pay for the reorganization.

As Van Drew explained, it was not supported by his Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, through which such legislation would have to go. And he said the House Appropriations Committee, another ladder the FAA would have to climb to get funds to put its reorganization into effect, didn’t support it, either.

As Van Drew succinctly put it, the reorganization plan “didn’t get any support whatsoever.”

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