The FAA’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget of $15.6 billion cuts $351 million from fiscal 2012’s actual level largely by trimming airport grants, a move that failed in recent years.
The budget, released today by the Obama administration, includes $9.7 billion for operations, $2.8 billion for facilities and equipment (F&E), $166 million for research and development, and $2.9 billion for the Airport and Airway Trust Fund-backed Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
Figures are compared with fiscal 2012 because at the end of March lawmakers passed a bill funding the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA at 2012 levels.
Digging into the major accounts, the Operations budget includes $7.3 billion and 31,017 full-time-equivalent (FTEs) positions for the Air Traffic Organization. Another $1.2 billion and 7,246 FTEs will go toward aviation safety resources in regulation and certification.
The FAA proposes spending $928 million of the F&E budget on NextGen—a 7% boost from fiscal 2012’s figure. The bulk of NextGen spending—$212 million—would be on the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast program, while another $115 million would go toward text-based, air-to-ground communications initiatives. The rest of F&E is earmarked for maintaining current systems.
The FAA’s NextGen funding will be supplemented by $1 billion in “additional” DOT funding, part of $50 billion in funding targeting infrastructure improvements and job creation. A “new NextGen future facility in the New York area” will receive $225 million of funds, DOT says.
The $50 billion in additional DOT funds will go toward short-term infrastructure investments: $40 billion for immediate-need projects and $10 billion for projects “that spur reform through competition,” DOT explains in its budget documents. Airports would receive $2 billion in airport grants-in-aid and NextGen the $1 billion as part of the reform fund. Agencies “have been directed to find ways to expedite the permitting and approvals for infrastructure projects,” according to the budget documents.
The FAA’s requested AIP funds are $450 million lower than the fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013 figures. In both cases, proposed AIP grant cuts were torpedoed in Congress, leaving AIP funding at about $3.3 billion.
Among the issues left unclear in the FAA’s budget is the contract tower program’s fate. The agency’s intention to close 149 of the 251 towers on June 15 in response to congressionally mandated budget cuts has many in the airports community bracing for—and battling against—the program’s elimination.