Bush's air traffic move draws flak

President Bush this month amended a Clinton administration executive order to ensure that the government can continue contracting with industry for air traffic control.

On June 4, Bush deleted the phrase "an inherently governmental function" describing air traffic control from a Dec. 7, 2000, executive order that authorized the establishment of a performance-based organization within the Federal Aviation Administration.

In separate news releases June 7, the two major unions representing airways employees reacted angrily to the deletion.

"Our concern is that the radar that monitors our skies, and the voice and radio systems that provide critical communications capabilities, should be maintained and certified by committed public servants, answerable to the American people," said Michael Fanfalone, president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists.

Bush's amendment "does nothing to improve the safety or security of our National Airspace System and seems designed only to pacify the pro-privatization proponents" in the White House, said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Transportation Department Secretary Norman Mineta said in a statement June 12 that he has no intention of initiating a debate on large-scale privatization of air traffic control.

"The goal of the deletion is to make clear that the executive order did not inadvertently preclude the continuation of the successful tower contract program," Mineta said in a statement.

The FAA "has for many years contracted with private companies to staff air traffic control towers at small airports," the statement said.

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