It’s No Surprise, Congress And Sequestration
One Woman’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom
Congress continued to play the blame game as its members rushed to leave Washington, DC. It didn’t matter that these same legislators hadn’t passed a budget since their election. Once again, Congress has proven it doesn’t have to live with the consequences of its own acts—unlike the average American citizen.
Members of Congress have repeatedly said scare tactics were and are being used to avoid a stalled budget. But then these same congressional members cried wolf and declared they had no notice of what might really happen should the sequestration move into place.
The most visible and compelling argument to date concerns air traffic controllers. Why wasn’t Congress warned of the devastating impact budget cuts would have? After all, members of Congress were due to leave DC on Friday afternoon and the one thing they didn’t want to deal with at their respective airports was delayed or cancelled flights.
Bottom line, Congress was warned and repeatedly. Its members knew more than half of the nation’s 2.1 million government workers would be facing furloughs if agencies, including the Department of Transportation, were forced to trim budgets.
The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) could not implement furloughs until April, 2013, due to a law requiring it to give its employees advance notice.
Congress demanded Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to find another way to trim the budget at the FAA. The clock was ticking. Members of Congress were packed and more than ready to leave town. A town where nothing worked the way it’s supposed to work.
As a former director of a large government agency, I faced severe budget cuts annually. As was the FAA, I was often told parts of my existing budget was hands off. In other words, I could not touch certain portions of my existing budget to fund continuing or future operational needs. I always knew I had to take drastic measures to continue to meet mission requirements. I didn’t moan and groan. My comptroller and I met late into the night for weeks to draft acceptable solutions. The tasks before us often seemed ruthless, but we had a job to do and we accomplished it.
The air traffic controllers went back to work, but at what cost? Congress has authorized monies from other FAA mission-essential requirements be diverted to controller salaries. Does this mean air traffic controllers will no longer receive up-to-date training because those funds are now being used for salaries? What about the monies formerly set aside for routine maintenance on equipment used by the controllers? It’s been stated the equipment will no longer receive routine maintenance.
As a traveler, I agree there’s nothing more aggravating than delayed flights. But I’d rather have my flight delayed knowing the equipment the air traffic controllers need is properly maintained. This is not an acceptable area for cost-cutting measures.
The FAA cannot meet sequester requirements by trimming their budget within the office-supplies area. Training of employees has already been eliminated. What will happen to the economy of and around smaller airfields if their air traffic controllers are eliminated? And how many runways at large airfields can we safely close? Will air travel as a whole still be safe?
I wonder—did members of Congress arrive home and on time this past weekend? They managed to push through a last-minute vote to restructure the requirements for the FAA. It’s amazing—or perhaps not—how Congress can suddenly pull together so quickly to fix something when it impacts them directly. But what about their constituents?
Please join me next Monday for a continuing discussion on the effects sequestration may have on your everyday life.