Money Trouble: At Tampa, the focus is on financial challenges - for airports, airlines, security

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director & Jodi Richards, Associate Editor Money Trouble At Tampa, the focus is on financial challenges - for airports, airlines, security TAMPA - U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Aviation...


By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director & Jodi Richards, Associate Editor

Money Trouble


TAMPA - U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, opened the 12th Annual Conference & Exhibition of the Airports Council International - North America with an admission, "I call TSA the little bastard that I helped create." For airports, the Transportation Security Administration has become the agency du jour, and an ongoing point of discussion, particularly as it relates to funding. In line as the other hot topics: the air carriers, their future, and the impact of their economic situation on airports

Congressman Mica adds that a top priority for him has become seeing that airports and TSA are able to work together to make the system safe and operational - "if it's the last thing I do before I leave Congress."

David Plavin, ACI-NA president, says that with all the issues facing airports - security, airline economics, funding, local control, and competition plans, among others - he has an overriding concern that leaders in Washington do not have a clear idea of what the U.S. aviation "system" should look like and become. More than ever, he says, airports need to be unleashed to be allowed to be more market-based in their operation. "For years, airports had been regulation magnets," he comments.

Mica calls the current impasse in Congress over aviation funding reauthorization a result of "unreasonable" efforts by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, especially since the legislation being held up actually guarantees that 94 percent of controllers' jobs will not be privatized through the bill's four-year duration. The legislation would provide some $14 billion for airport infrastructure.

However, funding for airport/ TSA security is a different matter, and Congress is stalling on distribution of those dollars as well, caught between determining how much money is enough to secure the system while keeping a rein on TSA budgeters.

Admits Admiral James Schear of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "We have shortfalls that need to be addressed." He equates the effort to determine funding levels and dissemination of dollars to trying to change a fan belt while a car is running.

FAA associate administrator for airports Woodie Woodward comments that TSA's money challenges are going to increase because FAA is no longer going to help with the distribution of funds, something it had agreed to continue through the 2003 fiscal year. "TSA is having a very difficult time," she says.

Changing technologies and cargo security are other major hurdles facing TSA, says Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary for policy & planning for DHS. "TSA will need a toolbox of technologies" for cargo, he comments, and says that achieving secure cargo will require a partnership of all the affected parties.

Verdery explains that several airports in the coming months will become test beds for the proposed trusted traveler and transportation worker identification card (TWIC) programs, as well as TSA's CAPPS II initiative, which he terms a "threat-based system."

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