Press Release

House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee Clears Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007

By SpaceRef Editor
June 15, 2007
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(Washington, DC) Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics approved legislation aimed at bolstering federal aviation research and development.

“This legislation provides the tools that the FAA will need to keep the nation’s air transportation system safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly,” said bill sponsor, Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO). H.R. 2698, The Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007, was introduced earlier this week. The bill is cosponsored by Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).

The Science and Technology Committee maintains jurisdiction over the R&D portions of the larger FAA Reauthorization legislation before Congress this year. The Act was last reauthorized in 2003.

“The FAA is a unique federal enterprise,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL). “24 hours a day, seven days a week, it operates a complex nationwide network of communications, navigation and surveillance systems upon which our civil, military and general aviation aircrafts are completely dependent. It is simply incapable, as currently designed, of handling large increases in traffic. The bill before us takes several important steps to address this issue.”

The 2007 Act reauthorizes a range of important R&D activities at the FAA, starts up new initiatives in some key areas, and contains provisions aimed at strengthening the interagency Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), which has the responsibility of planning and developing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

With respect to the JPDO, the Act responds to the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as other expert witnesses that the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee heard from in hearings this Congress.

The bill includes provisions aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the JPDO, including measures such as:

  • Strengthening the authority of the Director of the JPDO.
  • Requiring each participating agency or department to identify a senior official to be in charge of its activities in support of the NextGen initiative.
  • Requiring an integrated plan with date-specific timetables for implementation of NextGen capabilities.
  • Requiring the JPDO’s Senior Policy Committee to meet at least four times per year.
  • Having OMB coordinate each agency or department’s budget in support of the NextGen initiative.
  • Directing JPDO to develop contingency plans for dealing with degradation of the NextGen system due to a natural disaster, major equipment failure, or act of terrorism.
  • Requiring the JPDO to establish noise, emissions, and energy consumption requirements for the NextGen system.
  • Directing JPDO to develop an R&D roadmap for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system.
  • Having GAO carry out annual reviews of JPDO’s effectiveness.

Underscoring the importance of the JPDO, the Act recognizes that the FAA, in coordination with other agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has a critical role to play in supporting other important aviation R&D activities, a number of which have been under funded in recent years according to the testimony of the GAO and FAA’s own R&D advisory committee. To that end, the Act augments the President’s funding requests for human factors research, weather research, unmanned aircraft systems research, and energy- and environment-related research.

“Recent announcements from Europe regarding the potential imposition of emissions penalties on aircraft operations in the next decade have also made it clear that the U.S. needs to better understand the impact of aviation on the climate as well as what might be done to mitigate that impact,” added Chairman Udall. “This legislation takes the first step in that direction by directing the FAA, in coordination with NASA and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program to develop a plan for such research and then having the National Research Council carry out an independent assessment of that research plan.”

The Act also authorizes a university research grants program involving undergraduate students; contains provisions aimed at strengthening FAA’s Centers of Excellence program and to continue general aviation aircraft engine research; continues the Airport Cooperative Research Program; establishes a runway research program that should benefit both general aviation and commercial air carrier airports; and establishes a multi-agency research program to conduct research on the impacts of space weather on aviation and air passengers.

“At the end of the day, we will be judged by results, not just by plans and good intentions,” concluded Udall. “It is no exaggeration to say that the nation’s air transportation system is critical to our economic well-being, our international competitiveness, and our quality of life. We need to work hard to ensure its future health and strength.”

The bill now moves to the full Committee for consideration.

SpaceRef staff editor.