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An Open Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee: Flight Service Station Contract With Lockheed Martin Will Save Taxpayers $2.2 Billion Over 10 Years

August 4, 2005

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to vote against any amendment to prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from working with an outside contractor (Lockheed Martin) to modernize its Flight Service Station program.

After a hard-fought competition, the FAA awarded a five-year, $1.9 billion contract to Lockheed Martin. The company will replace 1970s technology and consolidate 58 scattered facilities into three core centers plus 17 automated sites. In addition to providing better services to private pilots, the plan will cut costs nearly 40 percent, saving $2.2 billion over 10 years.

Flight Service Stations provide a way for private pilots to file flight plans, obtain weather briefings, and receive other information services. They do not control air traffic. Their 2,500 employees are called air traffic specialists, not controllers. However, in defending his amendment to the recent FAA reauthorization bill that would forbid implementation of this contract, Representative Bernie Sanders used the term ?air traffic control specialists? eight times in his floor statement, implying that these people control traffic. He and his colleagues Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters also kept repeating words like ?safety? and ?security,? as if those were somehow threatened by state-of-the-art technology.

This kind of high-tech modernization is essential for the larger aviation network, of which Flight Service Stations are an adjunct. The FAA and other federal agencies are planning a Next Generation Air Transportation System with triple the capacity of today?s system. But to be affordable to users, it cannot be done using today?s labor-intensive collection of hundreds of facilities, far and wide across the landscape. The present system can barely handle today?s level of air traffic, let alone what is projected for 10 and 20 years from now. Keeping this contract in place is a common-sense way to improve our nation?s aviation system in a cost-effective manner.

NTU urges you to support competitive contracting in this instance and in all other instances in which it is feasible. Floor votes on this issue will be included in our annual Rating of Congress.


Paul J. Gessing
Director of Government Affairs