Week ahead: FAA chief heads to Hill

Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta will brief lawmakers this week on the implementation of reforms that were included in the 2012 funding bill that was passed for his agency.

Huerta is scheduled to testify before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a hearing on Wednesday titled “the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012: Two Years Later.”

The bill in question is the $63 billion funding bill that was approved for the FAA by lawmakers two years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT
The measure included a host of reforms of the FAA’s procedures for regulating air travel, including requiring the agency to test the integration of commercial drones into the national aviation system.

Huerta is scheduled to be joined at the hearing by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General Calvin Scovel and the Government Accountability Office’s Civil Aviation Issues Director Gerald Dillingham.

The FAA’s funding measure is not scheduled to expire until 2015, but House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has said it already time for lawmakers to start considering an extension.

"To pass a new reauthorization that will keep us competitive, we have to begin laying the groundwork now," Shuster said in a speech to the International Aviation Club in December.

"We shouldn’t settle for just another reauthorization of programs, or for making adjustments at the margins of the system,” Shuster continued. “We may have the world’s best aviation system for the moment, but that title comes with no guarantee. We have an obligation to improve our system any way we can, with bold, innovative ideas.”

The 2012 FAA bill ended a streak of more than 20 short-term extensions that had to be passed for the agency before its multi-year appropriation bill was approved.

Aviation advocates have argued that the short-term funding bills deprived the FAA of certainty as it plans a switch of the national airplane navigation from a World War II-era satellite system to a radar-based technology known as NextGen.

The House Transportation Committee will also separately hold a hearing this week about the future of federal maritime navigation systems on Wednesday.

Additionally, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing about the “future of the homeland security missions of the Coast Guard” on Tuesday.