Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill To Amend the federal Airport Act.
I AM WITHHOLDING approval of S. 3502, "To amend the Federal Airport Act in order to extend the time for making grants under the provisions of such Act, and for other purposes."
The main purpose of the bill is to expand and continue the present federal program of aid to States and local communities for the construction and improvement of public airports. Under the bill, the currently authorized program of $63 million a year through fiscal year 1959, would be increased to $ 100 million a year and extended four years through fiscal year 1963. Total Government expenditures would be increased by $437 million.
Civil airports have always been regarded as primarily a local responsibility, and have been built, operated, and maintained by States and local communities. During the period when the aviation industry was growing to maturity, it was appropriate for the federal Government to assist local communities to develop airport facilities. Through various programs, including the grant program authorized by the federal Airport Act, well over one billion dollars has been allocated by the Government to the construction and improvement of local civil airports. In addition, over 500 military airport facilities have been declared surplus and turned over to the titles, counties, and States for airport use. These contributions, along with subsidies to airlines, aeronautical research, and the establishment and maintenance of the federal airways system, have greatly aided--in fact, have made possible--the tremendous growth of civil aviation in our generation.
Now, however, I am convinced that the time has come for the federal Government to begin an orderly withdrawal from the airport grant program. This conclusion is based, first, on the hard fact that the Government must now devote the resources it can make available for the promotion of civil aviation to programs which cannot be assumed by others, and second, on the conviction that others should begin to assume the full responsibility for the cost of construction and improvement of civil airports.
Over the past two decades, more and more airports have progressed to the point of self-sufficiency. Aviation generally has achieved a state of maturity in which the users should be expected to pay an increasing share of airport costs. With the continued growth of aviation and the application of sound management principles, the progress toward airport self-sufficiency should continue.
I recognize that there will doubtless be a transitional period during which the federal Government will be required to provide aid to urgent airport projects which are essential to an adequate national aviation facilities system and which cannot be completed in any other way. However, this bill does not provide for a transitional program. Rather, it sharply increases the level of the existing program. It does not provide for aid to the most urgent airport projects, but continues the current allocation formula which is not related to broad national aeronautical needs.
The existing program continues through June 30, 1959, so no community will be hurt by the withholding of approval of this legislation. At the next session of the Congress, the Administration will recommend a transitional program to provide aid for the construction of urgent airport projects that are essential to an adequate national aviation facilities system.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
Note: This memorandum was released at the U. S. Naval Base, Newport, R. I.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Memorandum of Disapproval of Bill To Amend the federal Airport Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233966