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FAA Furlough Update: Construction, Technology Projects Come to a Halt

July 26, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration issued additional “stop work orders” over the last twenty-four hours to construction and technology contractors for critical modernization projects around the country after Congress failed to pass an FAA bill. The FAA halted dozens of major projects ranging from long-term runway safety initiatives to NextGen air traffic control research and testing. 
Yesterday, the FAA told contractors to stop work on millions of additional dollars of construction projects to build and modernize control towers and other aviation infrastructure across the country.
“I am making a simple and straightforward request to Congress: pass a clean FAA bill and immediately put thousands of FAA employees, construction workers, planners and engineers across America to work. In these tough economic times, we can ill afford to lay off hard-working Americans whose families depend on them,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“The real world implications of Congressional inaction are serious.  People are out of work and the FAA cannot conduct necessary work to keep our aviation system competitive and moving forward,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

The FAA is halting hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects and research and testing in areas ranging from General Aviation and fire safety to navigation, weather and voice communication. Because Congress has failed to pass an FAA bill, construction workers, technicians, engineers, program managers and planners across the country have been told not to report to worksites and testing centers.
Nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday.  Stopping work on these projects will significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers and could delay the programs.
Some of these projects include:
  • Runway Status Lights: Over $250 million in contracts to design and install runway status lights at airports around the country.  These runway and taxiway lights help pilots know when it is safe to enter, cross or take off on a runway.  The lights are slated for installation at the following airports: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; New York LaGuardia Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; Newark Liberty International Airport; Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport; Chicago O’Hare International Airport; Charlotte Douglas International Airport; Washington-Dulles International Airport; Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.
  • Air traffic tower earthquake protection: Nearly $20 million in construction and engineering contracts to strengthen air traffic towers in earthquake prone areas.
  • Weather Research: Over $14 million in projects to research NextGen weather technology systems for air traffic facilities and for aircraft cockpits.
To view a list of projects where “stop work orders” have been issued click here.  This list will be continually updated.
The FAA is currently working to deploy a new automation system at certain air traffic facilities which will serve as a foundation for NextGen, the modernization of our air traffic system.  Currently, the En Route Automation Modernization or ERAM system is operational in Seattle and Salt Lake City where air traffic controllers are using it to handle live traffic. The FAA is putting on hold an aggressive testing and deployment schedule for 18 more facilities due to the lack of funding and employee furloughs.
Nearly 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia are being affected. This includes many of the FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.
In addition to the FAA’s work on the construction of aviation facilities such as control towers, the lack of an FAA authorization has affected other airport projects through the Airport Improvement Program.  Without congressional authorization and as a result the FAA is unable to get roughly $2.5 billion out the door for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs
While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.
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