Lawmakers seek to quash FAA outsourcing

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House April 10 would prevent the federal government from outsourcing air traffic control.

The bill follows the Federal Aviation Administration's recent decision to strip the profession of its inherently governmental status.

Under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act of 1998, agencies must identify all functions they consider suitable for contracting out to industry. In accordance with the FAA's recommendation, the Office of Management and Budget in its inventory for 2002 designated air traffic control a commercial activity.

Officials from the union that represents more than 15,000 air traffic controllers say the change in status opens the door to privatization and are challenging the decision. Now they have lawmakers on their side.

"Should we risk the uncertainties of creating a new system to promote ATC safety and security when we already have in place a system with an outstanding record? The answer is simple: No," Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said in a statement.

Oberstar introduced the legislation with three other members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Aviation.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association and Professional Airways Systems Specialists hailed the move.

"Obviously, we have long shared their view that the safety of air travelers in this country is too important to ever be jeopardized by the risks of privatization or contracting out," NATCA President John Carr said in an April 11 news release. "Safety remains controllers' business."

FAA officials were not immediately available for comment. The FAA, however, has maintained that air traffic control will not be privatized.

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