Reauth is Coming, Reauth is Coming

May 31, 2023
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Perhaps evoking Paul Revere’s midnight ride is over-the-top for reporting the approaching effort to reauthorize the FAA. The expiration (and renewal) of a U.S. executive branch agency’s legal authority is hardly the same as the arrival of hostile troops. Still, the regular legislative effort to set funding and policy priorities for the American aviation safety agency demands attention and preparation.

The current authorization expires in October. That law, passed in 2018 with considerable input from ARSA and its members, refocused the FAA’s attention on workforce and career development issues, and forced the government to make progress on key matters to the industry. From technician grant programs to repairman certificate exploration to studies of agency management, the last reauthorization process illustrated how driving discussion on Capitol Hill can produce tangible results in the regulatory and business environment.

Driving that discussion starts with understanding the process. Large authorization bills are not created in a vacuum and are not the work of individual members of Congress. Professional staff members assigned to each committee with jurisdiction for aviation issues – the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee and their aviation subcommittees – spend months engaging the public, gathering intelligence, and hearing from the FAA itself before drafting the mammoth document that will be introduced for consideration.

The current information gathering phase takes several forms. Public hearings, where invited members of the aviation community speak to and answer questions on selected topics, help demonstrate the highest level interests of lawmakers. Already, such hearing attention has been given to aerospace workforce needs, airline scheduling problems, and maintenance of aging government systems.

While those official proceedings go forward, the committee staffers engage directly with key stakeholders. As attendees to ARSA’s Legislative Day on March 15 heard, that engagement is made through trade associations, special committees like those identified to recommend improvements for increasing participation in the industry’s workforce, and interested professionals (like those very same Legislative Day attendees). Depending on the particulars of each interaction, those persons can use their voice to either set larger priorities or reinforce them with specific examples.

ARSA’s top level priorities for the reauthorization cycle are set. On Feb. 28, the association delivered a letter to the chairs and ranking members of those committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over aviation. Though the association’s long-standing approach to congressional oversight remains that elected officials should not micromanage the FAA, there are long-standing issues and emerging problems demanding specific attention. The letter divided its request to lawmakers into regulatory and workforce focused recommendations.

Regulatory Recommendations

Across nine specific areas, the association is urging Congress to press forward on clarifications and improvements in regulation and related agency oversight that will improve business conditions, enhance the FAA’s international stature, and prevent burdensome demands for compliance unsupported by the plain language of the rules. If followed, the recommendations would improve investigative procedures while bolstering certificate holder due process, force the agency to align its guidance with 14 CFR, push back against inconsistent enforcement, and protect the rights of aviation stakeholders in multiple ways.

Workforce & Career Development Recommendations

ARSA Executive Vice President Christian Klein described the 2018 law as “a major piece of workforce legislation.” In addition to establishing technician and pilot workforce development grant programs, Klein explained: “The bill’s workforce title [a novelty in aviation policymaking] also includes important reforms to improve mechanic training and other initiatives to encourage more Americans to pursue aviation careers.” Among specific 2023 requests related to military transitions, career development, and data sharing, ARSA has added its voice to the many industry organizations seeking establishment of a National Center for the Advancement of Aviation. Among other things, the NCAA would develop curricula, promote employment, bolster pathways, and could ultimately administer those widely successful grant programs to allow the FAA to focus on oversight.

For the U.S. aviation community, the FAA reauthorization process is an opportunity to return the American regulator to a position of global leadership and stem the tide of emerging problems caused by distractions of government focus.

“The FAA risks falling behind other authorities in its global leadership,” ARSA’s Feb. 28 letter said. “While the FAA may once have been respected as ‘the gold standard’ of aviation regulation, that status is in serious jeopardy as foreign civil aviation authorities…benefit from better trained personnel, consistent leadership, a global perspective, and a more internally consistent regulatory framework…Congress must focus on improving FAA personnel training and professionalism, enhancing transparency, empowering the agency to adjust more rapidly to changing circumstances, and strengthening the agency’s hand in its relationships with other global aviation authorities. Doing so will make the agency – and industry – more effective and enhance safety.”

For a basic overview of the legislative process, visit

Brett Levanto is vice president of operations of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein, P.L.C. managing firm and client communications in conjunction with regulatory and legislative policy initiatives. He provides strategic and logistical support for the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.