For decades, despite overall decreased levels of service, the Federal Aviation Administration has struggled with bloated operating budgets, expensive personnel and benefits costs, and high unit costs per service.
As Congress considers a reauthorization package of the FAA, a new proposal to modernize Air Traffic Control (ATC) should be adopted.
Specifically, commercializing the nation’s air navigation infrastructure would benefit taxpayers by increasing efficiencies, improving customer responsiveness, and accelerating the adoption of new technologies. All while saving users and taxpayers lots of money.
Many other countries have charted this course with much success. The UK, Canada, Germany, and France all have commercialized air navigation. Although there are variations, all are operated by private entities and have systems financed by users instead of taxes.
The private systems work while the FAA continues to struggle. Since the 1990’s, lawmakers have set policy goals for the FAA, but with little to show for it. In the last 25 years, Congress has adopted several key pieces of legislation to direct the agency to modernize its operations, cut costs, and improve efficiencies.
But a report published by the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation released in May of this year, shows that despite legislative action and significant resources poured into the FAA, there has been little to show for their “efforts.”
This should come as no surprise considering giant bureaucracies funded through general appropriations have no incentive to streamline their operations or respond to user needs and desires. Despite the FAA undergoing a massive reorganization to reduce costs, between 1996 – 2015 the agency increased their operations account by 110 percent.
Even amid nine percent lower workforce levels and a constant number of facilities, compensation and benefits expenses doubled in that timeframe. The fact is, because of outsized union influence, the FAA has not taken steps to reduce personnel costs, even though they were given great latitude in negotiating collective bargaining agreements.
Countries that permit private non-profits to run their air navigation systems have become hubs of technological innovation.
With transportation in this country undergoing a massive evolution, now is the time to tear down antiquated models and erect new, innovative and responsive models in their stead. The current model has increased the tax and fee rate on the average ticket by 20 percent. The old system for ATC does not serve taxpayers well. Consumers deserve better.