The Biden administration announced $26 million in funding today to invest in additional safety technologies for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The announcement follows the White House’s Sept. 7 nomination of Mike Whitaker – the former deputy administrator at the FAA from 2013 to 2016 – to lead the agency.
The new $26 million investment is intended to improve aviation safety in the country through a new surface awareness initiative, an approach runway verification, and a runway incursion device.
According to the White House, to improve controller situational awareness and reduce close-calls on the runway, the FAA will deploy surface surveillance systems to airports that do not already have this technology. Additionally, to prevent incorrect runway landings that can result in close-calls, the FAA will expand its terminal automation system, which will provide air traffic controllers alerts about aircraft alignments to 84 airports.
Finally, the administration announced that the new funding will also go towards deploying a memory aid device used by controllers for occupied and closed runways to 72 additional airports. This device provides a visual and audible alert to remind controllers to check the runway before issuing clearances.
“However, the Administration cannot do this alone,” the White House wrote. “Congress must also commit to supporting the FAA’s safety efforts. Without sufficient funding levels and continued investment in safety, the current standard Americans expect could be jeopardized in the future.”
“That is also why Congress should move immediately to confirm Mike Whitaker,” the press release says. “At a time when the FAA faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities – thanks to quickly evolving technology and all-time high demand for air travel – Whitaker’s extensive leadership and aviation experience are critical.”
The FAA has been without a permanent lead since April 2022, when Billy Nolen stepped up in an acting capacity. In July 2022, Biden named his first pick to head the agency, but after a long-awaited confirmation hearing, Phil Washington withdrew his nomination in March.
The Biden-Harris administration called on Congress to take steps to ensure the safety of Americans and the success of American aviation by quickly confirming Whitaker to lead the FAA and reauthorizing the agency in a timely manner.
The press release also notes that Congress should approve the administration’s budget anomaly requests and keep the government funded. “The anomaly requests will allow the FAA to continue to hire to meet the vital goal of 1,800 new air traffic controllers in 2024, and fully support implementation of ongoing airspace safety infrastructure projects,” the White House wrote. “The anomaly requests should be included as part of a forthcoming short-term continuing resolution needed to avoid severe disruptions to government services in the first quarter of the fiscal year.”
Finally, the administration requests that Congress fully fund the FAA in fiscal year 2024 at the requested levels, which includes approximately $456 million that the House did not fund.
“For example, the House proposed $12 million less for the system that allows airlines to access flight plans, Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs), and weather information,” the White House press release says. “The Administration’s proposed funding would allow the FAA to immediately make key safety improvements.”
The FAA has faced a lot of backlash for its NOTAM system, with Congress calling for an urgent need to modernize the technology. The system broke down in January of this year, causing the first nationwide ground stop since Sept. 11, 2001.