Federal DOT Secretary Releases Sequestration Statement

On Febuary 22nd, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a statement regarding the effects of sequestration on his Department of Transportation.  As per the sequestration plan, the federal DOT will be required to cut nearly $1 billion over the course of the next months.

Approximately 60% of those cuts will come from the Federal Aviation Administration – which is tasked with providing air traffic control, and pre-flight screenings at the nation’s airports.

In order to adjust to the mandated cuts, Secretary LaHood plans to furlough “the vast majority” of the FAA’s 47,000 employees. Furloughed employees will not be allowed to work a full work week during this period and may lose 8 to 16 hours of pay per week. Furloughs may remain in place until the end of the year.

The transportation secretary also noted that the safety of air travelers will not be reduced during this period. Travelers, however, should be prepared for extended delays of flights, he said.

“Safety,” reads the statement, “is our top priority and we will only allow the amount of air traffic we can handle safely to take off and land – meaning passengers will expect delays.”

The secretary continued to say that “flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff.”

The controllers Secretary LaHood is referring to are Air Traffic Controllers who direct planes during landing, take-off, and cruise periods of flight.

In order to dissipate the effects of the sequester on delays, the FAA and DOT are currently looking into plans to close over 100 control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flights per year, and are aiming to eliminate 60 “midnight shifts” across the country.

In addressing the politics behind the sequestration, Secretary LaHood ended his statement with the following:

“These closures will impact services for commercial, general aviation, and military aircraft. This will delay travelers and delay the critical goods and services that communities around the country need. These are harmful cuts with real world consequences that will cost jobs and hurt our economy. The President has put forward a solution to avoid these cuts, and we need Congress to come together to work on a long-term, balanced solution to our deficit challenges.”

You can read the full report here.