Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood threatened to shut down airports if Congress does not undo sequestration, even though the Federal Aviation Administration annual budget for consultants, travel, and supplies is larger than the sequester cut.
“At DOT, we will need to cut nearly a billion dollars, which will affect dozens of our programs. Over $600 million of these cuts will need to come from the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency that controls and manages our nation’s skies,” LaHood said during the White House press briefing. “As a result of these cuts, the vast majority of FAA’s [Federal Aviation Administration] nearly 47,000 employees will be furloughed for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year, and in some cases it could be as many as two days.”
The Republicans who oversee LaHood’s department accused him of dishonesty after the briefing. “[T]oday’s exaggerations are not backed up by any real financial data,” House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said in a joint statement with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. “The agency is well positioned to absorb spending reductions without compromising the safety or efficiency of the National Airspace System,” they added.
The lawmakers proposed a better way to handle sequestration. “Before implementing furloughs, the FAA should review their $2.7 billion in non-personnel costs such as $500 million for consultants, and $200 million for supplies and travel,” congressional Republicans countered in a fact sheet.
LaHood avoided telling reporters what he already knows about how FAA could handle the sequestration cuts. “Did any of these conversations happen at the end of December last year with the unions and with the airlines?” one reporter asked.
“When we thought that there was going to be a sequester, of course . . . the answer is yes, of course,” LaHood replied, before moving to another question without explaining what he had learned in those conversations.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl observed, after the briefing, that “even if the cuts go into effect, the Department of Transportation will spend more money this year ($73.2 billion) than it spent last year ($72.6 billion).”