by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The federal budget sequester is interfering with the air traffic control (ATC) system and snarling up air traffic. As usual, politicians are pointing fingers of blame at everybody but themselves. But politicians are the ones who have strapped the ATC system to the chaotic federal budget. And they’re the ones who have insisted on running ATC as a bureaucracy, rather than freeing it to become the high-tech private business that it should be.
The government wouldn’t be very good at running Apple Computer, and so it’s no surprise that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has major problems running the computer-intensive ATC business. To run smoothly and efficiently, our ATC system should be given independence from the government. We should privatize the system, as Canada has done very successfully. …
… Last year Bloomberg reported: “More than one-third of the 30 contracts critical to building a new U.S. air-traffic system are over budget and half are delayed, a government audit concluded. Eleven of the 30 contracts underpinning the so-called NextGen system exceed projected costs by a total of $4.2 billion, according to a Government Accountability Office report released today. Fifteen of the contracts are behind schedule by an average of four years, the GAO report said.”
The FAA has long been plagued by such problems. Privatizing the FAA would give leaders of the ATC system the flexibility they need to improve on such dismal performance. Independence from the federal budget would also allow for improved financial management and the ability to expand revenues steadily as the demand for ATC services grows.