FAA Prepares To Ground One-Third Of Staff Should U.S. Government Shutdown

By Sean Broderick
Source: Aviation Daily
October 01, 2013
Credit: FAA

Training of new air traffic controllers, rulemaking activities and long-term NextGen progress are among the key FAA efforts that will cease under a government shutdown, the U.S. Transportation Department’s (DOT) funding-lapse contingency plan shows.

The FAA stands to lose about one-third of its 46,000 employees under a shutdown that at press time was scheduled to start today. Of the FAA’s 30,500 remaining employees, 24,200 will be in the Air Traffic Organization.

However, the DOT document notes that a shutdown would suspend “development of new air traffic control specialists not certified to work a position.”

Much of the FAA will continue to operate in a business-as-usual mode during the shutdown, the DOT’s plan shows. Besides air traffic control (ATC) operations and facility upkeep, other services that will continue include airport and flight standards-related field inspections, commercial space launch oversight, aircrew and ATC personnel medical certifications, and accident investigation. 

Long-term NextGen efforts will slow a bit, the DOT says. The agency includes “development operational testing, and evaluation of NextGen technologies” and “development of NextGen safety standards” on the list of suspended activities. The DOT notes that En Route Automation Modernization deployment will continue.

While non-safety-related critical rulemaking will halt, the FAA’s Aviation Safety (AVS) workforce—limited initially to “safety-critical staff whose job is to perform urgent continued operational activity to protect life and property”—will steadily rebound if the shutdown drags on. The FAA will bring back about 2,800 AVS employees over the next several weeks “to better manage safety risk,” the DOT explains.

Employees would be called back based on “the percentage of continued operational safety work.”

Among other functions that will cease are air traffic performance analysis, dispute resolution, capital planning for facilities and equipment, and budgeting functions not tied to multi-year appropriations or contract authority.

The FAA—by far the largest agency within the 55,500-employee DOT—would also be among the hardest-hit by any government shutdown. 


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