Hearing Report: Buttigieg and Lawmakers Discuss Transportation Safety

Buttigieg and Lawmakers Discuss Transportation Safety 
May 2, 2024

During a hearing on May 2, where lawmakers focused on transportation safety, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg discussed the administration’s response to the recent bridge collapse in Baltimore and its plan to add 2,000 more air traffic controllers. Buttigieg testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation to discuss the administration’s fiscal year 2025 budget request.
Aviation Workforce: Buttigieg told lawmakers that the administration is requesting funds to hire 2,000 new air traffic controllers, which is more than the 1,800 additional controllers slated for this year and 1,500 last year. The Secretary explained that 2,000 additional controllers “puts us ahead of attrition, but not by much.”
Ranking Member Cindy Hyde Smith (R-MS) also discussed her interest in getting children from elementary to high school interested in careers in aviation. She told Buttigieg that she would like to develop “a program that can bring kids out to smaller airports.”
Airport Infrastructure Projects: Buttigieg briefly mentioned in his opening statement that the administration is requesting funds to “continue improving airports.” The budget request includes $3.35 billion for AIP in FY25. However, we are encouraging lawmakers to up that amount to $4 billion – the same amount in the FAA reauthorization bill that lawmakers are trying to finish before the May 10 deadline.
We are also urging Congress to appropriate additional funds for airport discretionary projects. The FY24 DOT spending bill included $532.4 million for supplemental funding with $482.4 million of that amount reserved for airport earmarks. The bipartisan and bicameral FAA reauthorization bill that lawmakers unveiled earlier this week authorizes $200 million for airport discretionary projects that focus on resilience and runway safety.
Small Community Programs: Ranking Member Hyde-Smith voiced her support for the Essential Air Service Program, which she said “connects our nation’s rural communities to the broader transportation network and benefits more modest airports” including EAS airports in Mississippi. She also submitted questions for the record on the FAA Contract Tower Program.
Slots at DCA: Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) spoke out against efforts to increase the number of slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The FAA bill that the Senate is currently considering would add five additional round trips at DCA. Van Hollen and other senators from Maryland and Virginia are working to preserve the status quo and have highlighted the recent near miss at the airport to help make their case against expansion.