Clinton orders up Air Traffic Organization

President Clinton hopes a new performance-based organization he announced

last week will improve the management of the air traffic control system

and speed delivery of new technologies to controllers.

Clinton's executive order Dec. 7 establishes a performance-based organization

within the Federal Aviation Administration called the Air Traffic Organization,

which will be responsible for direct, daily management of the nation's air

traffic control system.

The new body will include the FAA's technology development arm — the

Research and Acquisition office — as well as the agency's Air Traffic Services

office and its Free Flight office. FAA modernization projects will move

into the new organization, including the Wide Area Augmentation System for

satellite navigation and the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System.

Those efforts should not be altered dramatically but instead become

managed more efficiently, said FAA spokesperson Tammy Jones, who noted that

the performance-based organization "will focus more on accountability and

tracking costs related to service goals" and will not change the technologies


A White House report released the same day outlined the reasons behind

the president's action and said Clinton's executive order will provide more

immediate relief to the flying public.

"The FAA's effort to modernize its air traffic system technology has

not kept pace with either the emergence of new hardware or the growing demand

for air travel," the report stated. "Despite significant improvements in

recent years, some modernization projects are delayed and over-budget."

Ruth Marlin, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers

Association, said that bringing together the FAA's air traffic research

and operations arms will speed the delivery of technologies to improve the

air traffic control system.

"That should allow us to field them faster in the future because it

brings controllers and engineers closer together," enabling kinks in new

systems to be worked out before deployment, Marlin said.

Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, said

Clinton's move may help speed up the FAA's air traffic control modernization

efforts, but he cautioned that the FAA has a long way to go.

Wascom said one of the biggest hurdles the FAA needs to overcome is

its "antiquated management structure" and that he welcomes efforts to inject

private-sector management techniques into the air traffic control system.


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