The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has released information from two reports that highlight concerns over plans to privatize the air traffic control system in the USA. According to the reports, pending legislation for ATC privatization, if implemented, could swell budget deficits and delay ATC modernization.
NBAA points to newly released analysis from the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF), which became the latest in a growing number of groups to express concerns about ATC privatization. In the analysis, the ACUF said that the legislation doesn’t meet its privatization principles and “would not actually privatize a governmental entity”.
The proposal for privatizing the ATC system is being pushed by the big airlines as the US Congress debates a long-term FAA reauthorization bill. Under the proposal, congressional oversight of the nation’s aviation system would be replaced by an entity governed by a private, airline-centric board, unaccountable to Congress.
“Specifically, private enterprises would not be allowed to compete for ownership of the newly created entity, American Air Navigation Services Corporation (AANSC),” noted the ACUF.
“In fact, the very makeup of this entity raises serious questions as to how this transfer of power would work: the US Secretary of Transportation would be given the authority to decide the makeup of employees and approve the fees to fund operations, while the board of directors, which would include directors appointed by the government, would have to accept existing union contracts.”
In addition, the ACUF noted that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected that the privatization bill would swell budget deficits, “contributing to the already out-of-control spending problem we desperately need to curtail.”
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said that ACUF’s analysis of the pending legislation adds to the large, diverse and growing number of organizations that have serious concerns about ATC privatization in general.
“Among the many dubious claims raised by ATC privatization proponents is that the concept adheres to free market principles,” said Bolen. “As this ACUF analysis makes clear, that’s not the reality. Instead, this legislation amounts to nothing more than a handover of the nation’s aviation system to the big airlines.”
In addition, a new study from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan government research organization, undercuts proponents’ arguments for privatizing the US’s ATC system.
The GAO report concludes that efforts by the FAA to continue modernizing the ATC system have delivered US$2.7bn in benefits to all users of the system and are on budget. The report goes on to state that privatizing ATC could interfere with the work that is well underway to complete development of a Next Generation aviation system.