Federal Aviation Administration partially incapacitated for almost two weeks


On July 23, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partially shut down. Surprisingly, their short-term financing and expenditure authorization had failed in Congress. In the past it had been renewed twenty times without any problems. When long-term financing of this administrative part of the U.S. Department of Transportation expired in 2007, the FAA has been receiving its funding through short-term measures (see also WN 24/2011).

Both houses of Congress blamed each other for the failure. Point of conflict were additions from the House of Representatives concerning the financing of rarely-used airports in rural areas and the closure of ten airports that are within a 90 mile radius to major airport. These cost-cutting measures had not been accepted by the Senate. Instead, Senators want to follow a request by the White House and the Department of Transportation and approve the funding in its present form. On August 4, Congress reached an agreement on stopgap funding for the FAA that will last until Congress returns from recess in September. 

Affected by the shutdown were grants as well as equipment, infrastructure, research, technology and development budgets. Construction projects at airports in all 50 States were on hold. In addition, about 4,000 employees of the FAA and 70.000 airport construction workers were put on unpaid leave. The air-travel system had not been affected; air traffic controllers, airlines and security personnel continued working.

(a previous version of this article was first published in Washington News No. 27, July 28, 2011, fm)