FAA plan ready for takeoff

Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry

A presidential commission will recommend full funding for the Federal Aviation Administration's 10-year modernization plan, officials said Nov. 5.

The Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry will unveil its findings in a report Nov. 18, but insiders previewed some of its contents at the Air Traffic Control Association Inc.'s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

The FAA's Operational Evolution Plan (OEP), a mix of information technology and other initiatives, will get the thumbs up, according to Bob Walker, chairman of the commission.

"We see it as very important to fully fund and move ahead with the OEP," said Walker, president and chief executive officer of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associat

The OEP, released in June 2001, spells out a series of steps that will expand the capacity of the airspace system to meet passenger demand by 2010.

The Bush administration is asking Congress for $14 billion for the FAA — a 1.6 percent decrease — for fiscal 2003. Of that amount, $30 million — about a $2 million increase - is earmarked for the agency's Office of Information Services, which oversees IT services.

The question remains, however, "What will happen beyond the OEP?" said Jeffrey Shane, the Transportation Department's associate deputy secretary.

"We think that you have to have an extremely robust system for the future so you have a lot of options," Walker said.

In its report, the commission also will underline the importance of interagency cooperation, particularly among the Defense Department, NASA and the FAA, he said.

"We have got to begin a process of horizontal decision-making to ensure when we're making investments that they're broadly applied," he said.

Another important step is marrying the technology with policy, said Charles Keegan, the FAA's associate administrator for research and acquisitions. "I think it's an area that's relatively new for us," Keegan said.

The real challenge facing the FAA "is that we don't understand where aviation fits into the national culture," he added. "An opportunity exists today to redefine and re-establish [that]."

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