In looking at needed changes in the ATC system, there is more than just a funding system that should be considered. Controls are also critical: it is also important that users become more involved in the decisions going forward. In the run-up to the announcement of the Administration's bill, the FAA told the industry that under its user fee system, it would be "user pays, user says." However, the advisory board format put forward in their proposal consigned users to merely making suggestions rather than decisions, while the Administrator and Secretary of Transportation would have ended up with unparalleled power over the system design, funding and performance. Listening to users (or other stakeholders, including Congress) would be at best an optional event. The FAA proposal would have even eliminated the "nuclear" option of judicial review, making airlines totally captive payers, just writing checks. We have to maintain some accountability outside of the FAA, so that the resultant NextGen system meets the present and future needs of users.
Finally, although the bill is not before this committee, we commend the drafters of S. 1300 for limiting the bill to addressing the critical priorities of the FAA going forward. A modernized air traffic control system, increased research and development funds for aeronautical innovations (particularly in the environmental area), and mechanisms for 7 continued development of America's airports - these are and should be the focal points for this reauthorization legislation. We hope this committee will also embrace that view. It is unfortunate that others in Congress have used this critical legislative moment as an opportunity to introduce unrelated labor and ancillary concerns into the process, which could defeat an important initiative required today by the shipping and traveling public.
In summary, I appreciate the invitation to testify on this important subject. The U.S. air traffic control system must be modernized and such an initiative should not be delayed. Payment for such modernization should be through a fair and equitable system, balanced to reflect the burdens placed on it by the users, along with a general revenue contribution that reflects the high value of the national airspace as an economic and security asset. Time is of the essence. Thank you for giving me a portion of your valuable time.
This document has footnotes and they may be found at the following URL: http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/testimony/2007test/071907testfs.pdf.