Trump pushes am­bi­tious plan to pri­va­tize air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent Trump will be­gin a push Mon­day to pri­va­tize the air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to White House of­fi­cials, as he piv­ots to an am­bi­tious plan to re­build Amer­ica’s high­ways, bridges, sea­ports and air­ports.

The bold move to dis­lodge air traf­fic con­trol (ATC) from the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and cre­ate a quasi­in­de­pen­dent, non­profit cor­po­ra­tion to do the job is a fit­ting kick­off for Mr. Trump’s week­long fo­cus on his in­fra­struc­ture agenda.

Like the rest of the plan, it is more gov­ern­ment re­form than spend­ing spree and faces fu­ri­ous push­back form the left and the Washington es­tab­lish­ment.

The pres­i­dent views re­build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, which was a prom­i­nent cam­paign prom­ise, as key to his agenda for cre­at­ing jobs and grow­ing the econ­omy, said Gary Cohn, di­rec­tor of the pres­i­dent’s Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil.

“Whether it be roads, rail, ports, air­ports, broad­band — it af­fects you and we know many of these ar­eas are fall­ing be­hind, af­fect­ing eco­nomic growth in the United States,” said Mr. Cohn, who pre­viewed the roll­out for re­porters.

Mr. Trump is shift­ing to in­fra­struc­ture while his ef­forts at re­plac­ing Oba­macare and tax re­form make slow progress in Congress.

U.S. air traf­fic con­trol is the largest and most com­plex sys­tem of its kind in the world. As with much of Amer­ica’s in­fra­struc­ture, how­ever, ATC is ag­ing and in bad need of mod­ern­iza­tion.

“There are enor­mous ben­e­fits for all U.S. cit­i­zens in do­ing this and we are very ex­cited about this,” said Mr. Cohn.

A non-gov­ern­ment ATC, he said, will save money for pas­sen­gers, up­grade the sys­tem from land-based radar to a GPS sys­tem and im­prove ef­fi­ciency and safety.

Crit­ics warn that pri­va­ti­za­tion could risk safety and na­tional se­cu­rity. They ar­gue that this could lead to the cre­ation of a mega com­pany dom­i­nated by ma­jor air­lines and there would be lit­tle in­cen­tive for it to sup­port gen­eral avi­a­tion and ru­ral air­ports.

Pri­va­tiz­ing ATC has been on con­ser­va­tives’ wish list for decades but the idea has never gained trac­tion.

Rep. Bill Shus­ter, chair­man of the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, ad­vanced an avi­a­tion bill last year that would have cre­ated a pri­vate, non­profit cor­po­ra­tion to run ATC. The Penn­syl­va­nia Re­pub­li­can’s bill stalled when it hit pow­er­ful op­po­si­tion from busi­ness air­craft op­er­a­tors, pri­vate pi­lots and ru­ral and com­mu­nity air­ports.

“There is money to make sure ru­ral air­ports get pro­tected,” Mr. Cohn said of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan.

At a Rose Gar­den event Mon­day, Mr. Trump will an­nounce a set of leg­isla­tive prin­ci­ples for an over­haul of air traf­fic con­trol that he is send­ing to Congress.

Mr. Trump is sched­uled to de­liver re­marks Wed­nes­day be­side the Ohio River in Ken­tucky to high­light plans for lon­gover­due up­grades to in­land water­ways. He will hold lis­ten­ing ses­sions Thurs­day at the White House with gov­er­nors and may­ors, and end the week at the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion talk­ing about high­way and rail­way projects.

The pres­i­dent’s bud­get pro­posal in­cluded $200 bil­lion for an in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram that is sup­posed to lever­age a to­tal pub­lic-pri­vate in­vest­ment of $1 tril­lion over 10 years.

Cen­tral to the plan are pro­pos­als to slash reg­u­la­tions and stream­line per­mits, cut­ting the av­er­age ap­proval process for high­way projects and other ma­jor con­struc­tion from 10 years to two years or less.

“It’s not just time lost. Time is money,” said Mr. Cohn. “The cost of in­fra­struc­ture goes up dra­mat­i­cally as time goes on in the ap­proval process.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Pres­i­dent Trump is push­ing a plan to pri­va­tize the air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem. The U.S. air traf­fic con­trol is the largest and most com­plex sys­tem of its kind in the world. Crit­ics of Mr. Trump’s plan warn that pri­va­ti­za­tion could risk safety and na­tional se­cu­rity.

“Whether it be roads, rail, ports, air­ports, broad­band — it af­fects you and we know many of these ar­eas are fall­ing be­hind,” said Gary Cohn, di­rec­tor of the pres­i­dent’s Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil.

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