LaHood Insists the Number of Air Traffic Controllers Will be Cut

Even CNN’s Candy Crowley was skeptical of the claim that air travel will be adversely impacted by the sequester cuts. But Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood insists that he is going to have to cut the number of air traffic controllers as soon as next week in order to meet the sequester target.


As part of the upcoming forced cuts totaling $85 billion, the Federal Aviation Administration will be required to slash $600 million from its budget, amounting to 4% of its total expenditures. Appearing at the White House on Friday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned those cuts would result in major delays at American airports.

Pressed by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday why such a small amount of the FAA’s total budget would result in delayed flights, LaHood explained that air traffic controllers consumed a substantial part of his agency’s resources.

“The largest number of employees at DOT is at FAA, of which the largest number are FAA controllers,” LaHood said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We’re going to try and cut as much as we possibly can out of contracts and other things that we do,” he continued. “But in the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers, and that will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports.”

LaHood, who was a Republican congressman from Illinois before joining Obama’s administration, is the last member of the GOP in the Obama Cabinet. Asked why he was brought to the White House briefing room Friday to address reporters, he said: “I would describe my presence here with one word: Republican.”

Asked Sunday if he thought Republicans were solely to blame for the stalemate over the forced spending cuts, LaHood alleged that members of his party were unwilling to negotiate with the president.

“I’m a Republican,” he said. “My audience is trying to persuade my former colleagues that they need to come to the table with a proposal, which frankly they haven’t done. While the president has, the Republicans haven’t.”

One former colleague disagreed.

“Shame on Ray LaHood,” Sen. John McCain, also appearing on “State of the Union,” said with a laugh. McCain, R-Arizona, pointed to an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post by the journalist Bob Woodward pinning the origin of the forced spending cuts on the White House.


I don’t care what party he thinks he belongs to or who he thinks is to blame. I want him to answer Crowley’s question.

The FAA has a budget in 2012 of $18.7 billion. That represents a $3 billion increase from 2010 — a year the controllers managed just fine, thank you. Congress should investigate LaHood for incompetence if he can’t cut 4% from a budget substantially larger than 2010 and keep the same level of service from air traffic controllers.

Understanding that there is little leeway for agency managers in what to cut, is LaHood really trying to convince us that an essential service like air traffic control needs to be cut drastically enough that it dramatically impacts air travel? This is not passing the smell test and LaHood should be forced to let us all look at his numbers — where he’s cutting and why.

That goes for the rest of these scare mongers. Republicans should demand a rationalization for all of these cuts and an explanation for why there was no where else these department heads and managers could realize savings.

The numbers are too good from Obama’s point of view not to check.



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