Press Release

July 22, 2011

WASHINGTON – As the nation faces an imminent shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency responsible for ensuring air traffic safety, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) today called for an immediate agreement to extend current funding for existing FAA programs until there is a permanent reauthorization of the agency. Without an agreement to extend funding for the FAA, the agency will shutdown at midnight tonight, furloughing approximately 4,000 workers. Air traffic controllers have been classified as essential and will not be furloughed as a result of a shutdown.

Passage of the latest FAA extension has been held up over deliberations between the House and Senate over an amendment included in the Republican-led House FAA Reauthorization bill that would make it more difficult for airline employees to unionize.

 “Failure to pass an extension will shutdown the FAA, affecting approximately 4,000 employees who monitor safety and develop air traffic systems for both civil and military aircraft,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Budget and Finance committees.  “This shut down will be unprecedented and it will severely harm our economy and everyone who depends on a thriving aviation system. It also is a clear attack on federal employees who manage our nation’s aviation and could have serious safety implications for air travelers.”

“First House Republicans nearly shutdown the government, next they have us on the verge of a financial market shutdown and now they want to shutdown the federal agency that oversees our skies,” said Senator Mikulski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. “Without immediate action, many Marylanders’ jobs will be left hanging in the balance.”

Since 2007, the FAA has experienced 19 short-term authorization extensions that have not included any policy changes to FAA programs. In an unprecedented maneuver, the House included a policy rider on the FAA extension bill that would eliminate Hagerstown Regional Airport’s participation in the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.  Both Senators Cardin and Mikulski have been working on a compromise that would allow Hagerstown’s continued participation in the EAS program.

“A shutdown of the FAA will lead to the furlough of the safety engineers, computer programmers, and physical scientists who ensure and improve the safety of air travel in the United States. Their work is essential to keeping the air travelling public safe and their furlough only hinders progress on updating our antiquated aviation infrastructure and air traffic control systems,” said Senator Cardin.

Without an extension, up to 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will be furloughed without pay and will lose their health benefits after 30 days.  This includes approximately 967 employees in the Washington D.C. metro area.  Additionally, $49.9 million in funding for projects in DC/Maryland/Virginia combined would be delayed. Without an extension, approximately $200 million a week in airline taxes will not be deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF).