The news headlines have been focused on the Budget, so you may not have heard the latest FAA news – the FAA Authorization was not passed and the Federal Government no longer has the authority to fund the FAA.
Government Departments are funded by authorizations, which authorize the money to be set aside in the federal budget, and appropriations, which permit the authorized money to be spent. Past practice has been that the FAA is funded on multi-year authorizations in order to allow it to make strategic decisions for issues like airport construction, and to then follow-through on those decisions with a regular cash-flow that does not have to be re-authorized on an annual basis. Then, the annual appropriations allow Congress to manage the flow of that money within the structure of the strategic plan.
When Congress cannot agree on substantive changes to an agency or department’s law, it is not unheard-of for the agency’s authorization to be subject to a continuing resolution (known in Washington as a “CR”). The continuing resolution usually authorizes funds to be spent at the same level as prior authorizations, so that important decisions about strategic planning for the agency can be deferred pending new information or pending vital debate.
What is unusual? Running an agency on four years worth of continuing resolutions is unusual.
Congress has been wrangling over a number of issues associated with the FAA for for years, and for four years and 20 continuing resolutions, the FAA has been running on a pre-programmed autopilot. They have been trying to operate under the prior funding levels (which is achievable) but they have also been trying to manage new strategic plans under the funding authorizations of outdated strategic plans.
But for four years and 20 continuing resolutions, the FAA has continued to be funded. Until now.
The FAA Authorization has been allowed to lapse. As a consequence, 4000 FAA employees who are deemed “non-essential” have been furloughed. While the newspapers may call these personnel “non-essential,” in many cases they are the safety professionals who are absolutely essential to continued advances in aviation safety. They are FAA FSDO inspectors and FAA engineers in the field. They are policy-makers in Washington. They are the people who make sure that the FAA continues to provide world-class leadership in safety.
So if your phone calls aren’t getting answered today, make sure you cut the engineer or inspector a little slack. They aren’t happy about it either.
- FAA Information Page: FAA Furlough Information
- FAA Press Release: Critical Aviation Projects Come to a Halt Due to Congressional Inaction
- FAA Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/FAA