Even L.A. Times hints sequester cuts are theater

March 24, 2013

By Chris Reed

faaThe Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement that 11 air control towers in California will shut down on Sunday, April 7, because of sequestration cuts to the federal budget is offered up by the administration as unfortunate but inevitable. But a Los Angeles Times account was refreshingly tart about what’s really going on:

“Critics have questioned whether the closures were necessary or part of a tactical gambit to gain leverage in Washington’s ongoing budget battles. The contract tower association’s executive director, Spencer Dickerson, said in a statement that ‘aviation safety shouldn’t be politicized.’

“Many smaller airports operate without control towers, with pilots using radio communications to coordinate movements in the air and on the ground.

“Still, local officials responsible for airport operations in Southern California’s busy airspace said the FAA’s decision is worrisome. Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich chided the government for a ‘politically motivated decision.’ Shutting down towers would have little impact on spending levels, he said, but a big impact on public safety.”

The Times’ insinuations are welcome. Does anyone truly believe that the Obama administration is dealing with $85 billion in cuts in a  $3.6 trillion budget in a way that reflects best management practices and a desire to maximize safety?

Nah. In the White House’s never-ending attempts to demonize anyone who doesn’t want spending to go up now and forever, we’re seeing scary decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration — decisions that could lead to fatal crashes and accidents.

Wouldn’t a federal wage and hiring freeze make a lot more sense than shutting down air control towers? Of course.

The California-style twist to the federal sequester

Here’s the context to the FAA’s decision that doesn’t get the focus it should. Federal employees aren’t losing their jobs — just contractors:

“The U.S. will close 149 air-traffic control towers run by contractors at small- and mid-sized airports beginning on April 7 as a result of automatic budget cuts at government agencies.”

That’s Bloomberg’s lead to its March 22 story. So public employees are insulated from the consequences of government budget chaos.

How very California of Washington.



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  1. Alaskan Vet
    Alaskan Vet 24 March, 2013, 11:46

    This article is biased, it does not mention that at one time these were federal positions that were lost. Why were they lost? It was decided 10 plus years ago that these towers that went contract were not important towers. So, it is not a stretch to see them on the funding chopping block.

    Next, the FAA should consider making all communities (or state) pay for the equipment maintained at many of these small airports, VASI and PAPI landing lights, Flashers, weather systems, weather cameras, some even have landing navigation systems. Another option is to eliminate the equipment which could reduce the amount of techs needed.

    The question then becomes how far do you go? Much of this was built up to make flying safe for the public. The FAA has funded much of this because small communities cannot. What level of safety risk is acceptable? What level of financial responsibility should these communities (or states) that want an airport bear?

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