Clinton creates new federal unit to manage air traffic

Clinton creates new federal unit to manage air traffic

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

DEC. 8—President Clinton yesterday issued an executive order creating an Air Traffic Organization within the Federal Aviation Administration. His move sidestepped Congress, which has ignored proposals to fold air traffic control functions into a performance-based unit of FAA.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which had feared a congressional move to privatize the nation's beleaguered air traffic system, supports the Clinton order.

In the announcement of the organization, which will be overseen by the FAA administrator, the president urged Congress to rethink tax funding of the air traffic control system. He suggested charging fees that possibly would rise for travel during peak periods. That conflicts with existing regulations, which Clinton asked Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater to resolve.

The administration maintains that as soon as the new organization is fully financed by cost-based fees, Congress should let it borrow funds from the Treasury Department or on private markets to finance long-term capital investments. The fees would replace direct appropriations.

Slater also announced a five-person board to oversee the new organization.

The chairman will be John W. Snow, chairman of CSX Corp. and a former Transportation Department official. Other members are Nancy Kassebaum Baker, a former Republican senator from Kansas who chaired the Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on aviation; John L. Cullinane, chairman of the Cullinane Group; Leon Lynch, international vice president of the United Steel Workers of America; and Sharon Patrick, president and chief operating officer of Martha Stewart Living.

Though subordinate to the FAA administrator, the board would have strong budgeting power. It could, for example, make changes to the White House's proposed budget for the new air traffic organization.

The order reassigns to the new organization about 37,000 FAA employees now tasked with air traffic control and facility repair and maintenance, as well as some research and development staff.

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