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Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting Principles for Reforming the Air Traffic Control System

June 05, 2017

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Representative:) (Dear Senator:) (Dear Mr. Chairman:)

I am pleased to transmit to you my Administration's principles for reforming our Nation's Air Traffic Control (ATC) System. Each year, our ATC system contributes $1.5 trillion to our economy—roughly 5 percent of our gross domestic product. To protect and improve this critical infrastructure asset, we must focus more attention on our ATC system and enact much needed reforms.

Despite using 1960s technology and operating in outdated facilities, United States air traffic controllers remain the best in the world. Every day, they safely manage the largest, most complex airspace system in the world. As air traffic has increased, however, the FAA has had to sacrifice system efficiency to maintain safe operations.

Our Nation's air traffic is only going to increase, and today's ATC system simply will not be able to handle the volume that is expected over the next two decades. Without immediate attention to comprehensive ATC reform, aviation congestion and delays—which already cost the United States economy more than $25 billion per year—will worsen and our economy will further suffer.

The Federal Government's $1 billion per year investment in the NextGen Program's improved ATC technology has proven insufficient. Unfortunately, political interference, budget uncertainty, and a bureaucratic government procurement system have continued to impede modernization efforts. The NextGen Program was originally estimated to cost $40 billion. By the Inspector General's most recent estimates, however, it may cost an additional $80 billion to complete. By the time it is fully operational, the technology may already be obsolete.

Efficient operation of our airspace requires significant investments in rapidly evolving technology. In this environment, bureaucratic efforts are unlikely to succeed. That is why all other industrialized countries, with the exceptions of the United States and France, have separated their ATC functions from government. By taking that critical step, those countries have accelerated modernization, maintained or improved safety, and lowered operating costs.

We must take bold action now to preserve the competitive economic advantage in the world economy that our ATC system provides. The enclosed proposal describes a new, not-for-profit ATC entity that will leverage private capital to enable faster modernization and immediate safety and operational improvements for all users of the system, from passengers to shippers to operators.

I look forward to working with you to enact these important reforms into law.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul D. Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer; William F. Shuster, chairman, and Peter A. DeFazio, ranking member, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and John R. Thune, chairman, and C. William Nelson, ranking member, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. An original was not available for verification of the content of this letter.

Donald J. Trump, Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting Principles for Reforming the Air Traffic Control System Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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