GOP: FAA should use more private resources for 'NextGen'

The Federal Aviation Administration should seek more private money to build a new air traffic controller system, Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Friday.

Touting a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) saying that the FAA has not been completely successful "leveraging the research and technologies of its partners," Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said the agency should do more to garner support among private companies.

“Given current budget constraints, it is critical that FAA maximize resources available through interagency and private sector partners for development of NextGen,” Mica said in a statement. 

“The private sector nearly always performs better than government and can more effectively manage transition efforts like NextGen," he continued. "The FAA should do all it can to leverage private sector capital and innovation in this critical infrastructure enhancement project.”

House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-Wis.) agreed.

“Research and development in our defense and space programs have led to many advancements for our society," Petri also said in a statement. "Congress has recognized the value, both in terms of innovation and efficient use of taxpayer resources, in FAA coordination with government and industry partners in the development of NextGen.

"There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, and there’s no time or money for that,” Petri concluded.

The FAA has long planned to switch the air traffic control system from  radar technology that has been used since World War II to a satellite-based system. However, lawmakers cut about $200 million from the FAA's budget that would have gone to the conversion this spring as they were working on a deal to avert a government shutdown this spring.

Additionally, a long-term overall funding bill for the FAA has also been bogged down in discussions over the labor rights of airline and railroad employees.

The full GAO report can be read here.