Since the start of the 118th Congress, ASCE has made the reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs a top priority. Our aviation infrastructure allows people to travel to their destinations, facilitates the movement of goods, and plays a key role in the nation’s economy. Unfortunately, ASCE’S 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded the nation’s aviation infrastructure a “D+” and estimated that the nation’s airports would need $237 billion over 10 years to bring them into a state of good repair.
For this reason, ASCE has strongly urged Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization that builds on the investments provided under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and ensures that our nation’s airports will receive robust and reliable funding before the current authorization expires on September 30th.
Thankfully this week Congress took major steps to ensure reliability for FAA programs.
Over the past week, the House and the Senate have been deeply engaged in moving forward bipartisan legislation. On June 9th, leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) unveiled the bipartisan Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (H.R. 3935), a five-year, $103.9 billion reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, with a focus on safety and resilience.
The bill includes $20 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, $17.2 billion for facilities and equipment, and $66.7 billion for operations. T&I Committee leaders have made FAA reauthorization a top priority this year, holding five hearings on this subject between February and April.
Shortly after introduction, the committee marked the bill up. After working through nearly 200 amendments over two days, the T&I Committee passed the bill with unanimous support on June 14th, setting the bill up for floor consideration. Meanwhile, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which is responsible for the research title in the FAA reauthorization, introduced the FAA Research and Development Act of 2023 (H.R. 3559), and passed their bill the same day that the T&I Committee completed its work. The title from the House Science Committee will be joined with the larger package from T&I when the bill reaches the House floor later this summer.
On June 12th, shortly after the House introduced its bill, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee released the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023. This represents a bipartisan, five-year, $107 billion piece of legislation.
The Senate bill provides $20 billion for the Airport Improvement Program, $67.5 billion for total agency operations, $18.2 billion for FAA facilities and equipment, and many provisions related to consumer protections. The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to mark up its bill on June 15; however that mark up has been temporarily postponed.
Both the House and Senate bills have been introduced as “Big Four” legislation, meaning in the House, full committee chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), full committee ranking member Rick Larsen (R-WA), Aviation Subcommittee chairman Garret Graves (R-LA), and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the bill, while in the Senate, full committee chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), full committee ranking member Ted Cruz (R-TX), Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation Subcommittee chair Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation Subcommittee ranking member Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced their version.
ASCE supports both the bipartisan House and Senate bills. As written, each bill covers more than $100 billion in appropriations, includes a significant increase in Airport Improvement Program funding, and would reauthorize the FAA through 2028.
Additionally, both bills address several of the key recommendations made to raise the grade for the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Solutions proposed in the bills include providing resources to improve resilience against potentially catastrophic events, increasing funding for the Airport Improvement Program, and supporting innovative technologies that can reduce congestion and improve capacity.
Prior to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, the FAA operated under a series of short-term authorizations, leading to costly delays in investment decisions. House T&I Chairman Sam Graves has targeted the third week of July for full House passage to allow enough time for bicameral conference negotiations ahead of the September 30 deadline.
Senate leaders have not indicated when consideration might take place in the Chamber; however, it is very possible that the legislation will be taken up before the Chamber breaks for its August recess.