| WASHINGTON, March 16
WASHINGTON, March 16 President Donald Trump is
proposing to shift oversight of the U.S. air traffic control
from the federal government to an independent group, according
to budget documents released on Thursday.
Trump, who called the U.S. air traffic control system
"obsolete" in a meeting with airline executives last month, is
proposing $16.2 billion for the Department of Transportation's
discretionary budget for fiscal year 2018, a reduction of 13
Some Transportation Department budget items are paid through
the highway gas tax fund.
The document says Trump's plan "initiates a multi-year
reauthorization proposal to shift the air traffic control
function of the Federal Aviation Administration to an
independent, non-governmental organization."
Privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic
control into a non-government entity would allow for a more
efficient system and rapid, cost-effective improvements of
technology, in part by avoiding the government procurement
Opponents, including some airlines, say the U.S. system is
so large that privatization would not save money, and would
drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk.
There also are concerns that airlines would dominate the
private-company board and limit access to airports by business
The budget would eliminate $175 million in annual funding
for the Essential Air Service, a program to support commercial
air service to rural airports and end subsidies for Amtrak to
operate long-distance train service.
Amtrak would then "focus on better managing" state-supported
lines and service in the busy Northeast corridor, the budget
The Trump budget would also eliminate the Obama
administration's "TIGER" grant program, saving $499 million.
That program has been used to fund a variety of transportation
projects, including high-speed and intracity rail, highway
construction and transit bus systems.
The budget calls for cutting the budget of U.S. space agency
NASA by 0.8 percent to $19.1 billion. The budget proposes
cancelling the multi-billion-dollar Asteroid Redirect Mission,
but funds development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch
The budget calls for expanding public private partnerships.
NASA has partnerships with Space Exploration Technologies and
The budget funds a mission to fly by Jupiter moon Europa,
but cancels a multi-billion mission to land on the moon. It
would also fund a Mars rover mission in 2020.
The FAA is spending billions to implement "NextGen," a
system that would utilize satellites to monitor aircraft instead
of radar and make other changes and has faced implementation
The FAA said it has spent $7.5 billion on NextGen over the
past seven years, which "has resulted in $2.7 billion in
benefits to passengers and the airlines to date, and is expected
to yield more than $160 billion in benefits through 2030."
Last month, Trump criticized spending on NextGen, saying the
system was "totally out of whack," over budget and behind
The FAA handles more than 50,000 flights a day and more than
700 million passengers each year. It spends nearly $10 billion a
year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger
user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel.
Since 1987, several countries have moved responsibility for
air traffic control from national civil aviation authorities to
independent self-financed providers.
The Government Accountability Office said in a 2016 report
that the United States "is generally considered to have the
busiest, most complex and safest ATC system in the world."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)