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US lawmakers fight FAA streamlining with new proposal

A legislative proposal introduced 24 July, seeks to halt consolidation or any other transfer of US air traffic control facilities, as well as to reverse the recent relocation of a radar facility.

The elimination, consolidation, de-consolidation, or co-location of any US FAA terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facility would be prohibited under a proposed new rule set to be added to a spending bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The bill is expected to be passed by the full house 24 July.

However, the legislation faces a veto threat from the White House, which has publicly objected to the bill for a variety of budget add-ons by lawmakers. 

The lawmakers’ proposal would prevent the FAA from using any funds to move or consolidate the facilities.

The agency has moved to consolidate several TRACON facilities this summer to streamline the air traffic control system. But the moves prompted lawmakers and air traffic controllers to question whether the combined facilities are adequately staffed and supported.

In early June, California Senator Barbara Boxer asked the FAA to impose a one-month delay, citing potential safety problems, including staffing and training to safely absorb the additional duties at the consolidated facility in San Diego.

A similar move was contemplated for the Houston and Beaumont, Texas, TRACONs.

The TRACON in Palm Springs, California, was moved electronically to San Diego last week despite Boxer’s concerns. But the new amendment to the Trasnportation-HUD budget bill would reverse the FAA’s consolidation plan for Palm Springs.

The amendment, set to be introduced by Florida Representative Alcee Hastings, would put a moratorium on the FAA’s program of consolidating or moving TRACON facilities to cut costs and increase efficiency.

The bill has three other bipartisan sponsors, including two senators from California and one from Texas.

The TRACON moves have prompted protests from lawmakers and air traffic controllers who question whether the consolidated facilities have adequate staffing and technical support.

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