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FAA's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Request: Key Issues Facing the Agency

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On May 12, 2011, the Department of Transportation Inspector General testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) fiscal year 2012 budget request.  The Inspector General outlined three major challenges that FAA faces in the current constrained fiscal environment: (1) addressing ongoing safety concerns, (2) managing Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) advancement while controlling costs, and (3) maximizing airport infrastructure funding to accommodate aviation growth.  FAA’s first priority remains the safety of the National Airspace System, which requires directing resources to address the recent increase in air traffic controller operational errors, controller staffing and training, air carrier and repair station inspector oversight, and pilot training and fatigue.  At the same time, FAA must ensure that operating costs do not crowd out its investments to advance NextGen.  Managing the long-term costs, schedule, and success of this effort will depend on recovering from costly technical problems with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program, effectively implementing transformational programs, and readying its workforce to better manage NextGen acquisitions and contracts.   Finally, FAA must prepare for upcoming rapid aviation growth by keeping existing runway construction projects on track and improving financial oversight of airport grants.