FAA Furloughs start – Time for privatization of traffic controllers?

By | April 22, 2013

Obama’s sequestration rule has kicked-in and funding cuts are hitting the Federal Aviation Administration

As a way to force Republicans’ hand in the debt ceiling debate, President Obama elected to use the tactic known as sequestration. Over the weekend, the spending cuts forced by that move hit the Department of Transportation and most-obviously the FAA.

Sunday flights were largely unimpeded with only a few delays at major airports as the FAA removed one day of work per employee over each two week pay period. As the summer travel season heats up, things will only get tougher.

Is this shortcoming another indication that the federal government is not the best entity to run air traffic controllers?

In 1970, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system was updated only once controllers staged a sick-out to get the attention of Congress. Efficiency is not the focus of government-run entities and streamlining is only done when huge amounts of public attention force legislator’s hands.

Many argue that something so large and integrated could only be run by government. All those towers and controllers have to be able to inter-operate seamlessly. Others make the case that the government doesn’t do anything efficiently and that inefficiencies are more to blame for the delays that travelers will experience in coming months.

Under the Constitution, Congress certainly has the power to regulate interstate commerce. Moving people from state to state for a fee certainly fits. So shouldn’t Congress regulate instead of run the nation’s air towers?

Landing/take-off fees paid by airlines to airports would fund the wages of controllers. Congress would certainly create regulations to make sure that towers were run to the minimum they see fit. Airport managers seeking the most value for their dollar will seek out the best controllers and best technology.

The Obama administration has used everything from White House visits to air traffic control as pawns in a political game of chicken. Perhaps it’s time to swerve. Opponents to ever-climbing federal spending don’t have to give in, they just need to start pointing the gamesmanship as a reason to privatize an even larger portion of the American economy.

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