I was at an aviation event the other day and ran into a friend who runs another aviation association. Say something about sequestration, she asked. Ok. Here are a few thoughts.
First, I strongly believe it will not happen. That Congress and the president will figure something out. For a whole variety of reasons, I think the climate is right for some sort of deal.
I do agree that if sequestration happens, NextGen would take a big blow. This cannot be permitted to happen. But pardon me for being a little jaded. I’ve been working on air traffic control reform and modernization since 1993 when I authored a presidential commission report calling for satellite based navigation by 1997. It didn’t happen then because certain interests didn’t want it and, frankly, the airlines did not care.
In the end, the best way to move this along is to change the way it is financed, allow access to capital markets, as proposed by our 1993 commission and so many others. The real lesson from sequestration is that getting air traffic control modernization out of the usual Washington way of doing things is the best answer.
The same is true with airport infrastructure. Although the federal grant program is not impacted by sequestration, it just shows how unreliable Washington is as a partner. We must allow airports more freedom to generate their own resources.
Bottom line. Doubt it will happen, but I think sequestration really shows how we need less Washington in the matter of aviation infrastructure.
Just before I started writing this I learned of the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye. Senator Inouye is the second longest serving senator ever, and one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. He was a true war hero, who left his arm on a battlefield in Europe during World War II. He was a great patriot and senator, one of those people who knew how to get something done. He was an important part of the Watergate Committee in 1973. Such was his integrity that, even though he was a Democrat, no one ever questioned his aggressive pursuit of the truth. When I arrived in the Senate as a young staffer six years later, I could easily see the quality of this man. Later, I had the honor of testifying before his committee. And I still recall going to some ceremony in the Senate a few years ago, taking my seat and then looking up a moment later as Senator Inouye asked if he could sit next to me. No pretense, no “great man” vibe. Just one of the greatest people this country ever produced politely asking if a seat was taken and if he might be able to sit there. I can’t stop smiling thinking about it. What a great man. They say his last word was “Aloha.” So I will say Aloha, Senator Inouye.