LoBiondo says FAA cuts won't affect NextGen


Feb. 18--A proposed $192 million cut to the Federal Aviation Administration's 2011 budget will not affect the Next Generation Air Transportation System, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, was told Thursday by the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

From the House floor Thursday, LoBiondo questioned U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, about a proposed cut to the FAA's equipment and facilities account. That account funds NextGen, a plan to overhaul the nation's air traffic control system. Much of the research will be done at a technology park under construction in Egg Harbor Township.

A House resolution proposes to cut the account in question from about $2.9 billion to $2.7 billion for 2011, LoBiondo aide Jason Galanes said.

Because Congress never enacted a 2011 spending plan, federal programs are operating through a temporary budget resolution that keeps programs funded at 2010 levels. In 2010, NextGen was funded with $868 million of the $2.9 billion account.

"While I strongly support the House's effort to reduce wasteful government spending, I am also very concerned about programs that could be affected," LoBiondo said from the House floor. "I believe the implementation of the next generation of air traffic control is a very necessary and critical step in bringing our aviation system into the 21st century."

Latham said the Appropriations Committee consulted with the FAA about the cut.

"We believe these modest savings will be beneficial to the taxpayers while providing the FAA with the funds necessary to continue to do the important work in bringing NextGen to fruition," Latham said.

Which FAA projects would be affected by the proposed cut is unknown. The account also funds upgrades and construction of air traffic control towers, weather systems and navigational aides such as runway lights, LoBiondo's office said.

On Monday, President Barack Obama unveiled his $3.73 trillion 2012 budget proposal. That proposal includes $1.24 billion specifically for the NextGen project. The proposed budget represents a 43 percent increase over NextGen's funding level in 2010.

Congress cannot begin to negotiate the 2012 budget until it enacts a plan for the remainder of 2011. The current temporary budget resolution expires March 4.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan