Many of you reached out to me last week about the Federal Aviation Administration’s furloughs, which delayed thousands of flights across the county and created challenges for our local airports. I have always been a strong supporter of reducing government spending, but those cuts must be made by prioritizing spending – not making politically motivated cuts that threaten our economy, our safety and our national security.
As a result of sequestration, on April 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chose to begin placing 15,000 air traffic controllers on temporary unpaid leave, known as furloughing. The White House knew about the potential for sequestration for a year and a half, but they waited until four days before the furloughs were set to begin to inform Congress and airlines of its plans and the major delays the furloughs would cause.
The FAA had the flexibility to reduce costs in other ways, but instead chose to make the cuts in a very painful way. They didn’t even prioritize key airport hubs based on air traffic. For example, the FAA implemented the furloughs at the same rate at the Waterloo Regional Airport in Iowa – which has 79 flights a day – and the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center – which facilitates more than 8,000 flights a day.
The furloughs didn’t just delay incoming and outgoing flights. The furloughs violated the core mission of the FAA, which is to prioritize passenger safety. Safety should never be compromised – no matter the cost.
Sequestration cuts are not limited to the FAA. Sequestration will also be felt with other domestic priorities, including cancer research and Head Start.
At a time when there isn’t a lot Congress agrees on, Members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats, the House and the Senate – came together last Friday to quickly correct what the Executive Branch refused to fix. By Sunday, April 28, the FAA furloughs were suspended and flights began running on time once again.
Unfortunately, as the consequences of sequestration set in over the next few months, I anticipate the need for more congressional action. You can be sure I will be keeping a close eye on this situation and I will continue to fight for smart, targeted cost-saving measures to replace sequestration.
Member of Congress