Panel Paper: The Influence of Contemporary Politics On Policy - Sequestration and FAA Contract Towers: A Case Study

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 2:05 PM
Salon III A (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michael McCormick, George Mason University
The Influence of Contemporary Politics on Policy: Sequestration and FAA Contract Towers

A Case Study

   On March 1, 2013, President Barack Obama ordered sequestration pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (OMB 2013). The statutes require ten year funding caps in discretionary budgets at most Federal agencies and departments through amendments to the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (GPO 2011, GPO 2012). As part of these budget caps, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reduced the Fiscal Year 2013 Operations Budget by 5%. To stay within the sequester mandated funding limits, the FAA decided to reduce funding for the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) Program and proposed closing 189 of 251 air traffic control towers through seven contracts with three venders.

   This paper develops a case study analysis regarding the impact of politics on policy process through the FAA Contract Tower Program.  Initially, the FAA developed a policy regarding shutdown of FCT sites based upon the number of annual operations. This policy provided for a secondary review utilizing criteria regarding national impact (FAA 2013). However, special interest politics soon intervened. Organizations such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA), National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) and the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA) quickly leveraged grass root lobbying campaigns. As a result, special interest politics trumped partisan politics and countered the goals articulated in statute. In this addition, the paper explores the implications of political influence of future policy decisions at the FAA and develops recommendation to mitigate adverse influence.