Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says FAA has cuts to make before furloughing air traffic controllers

The Republican senator says the FAA is posting jobs for “community planners,” one with a salary of $126,095, while the agency is threatening to furlough people critical to safety.
by Chris Casteel Published: March 8, 2013
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“We have instituted a hiring freeze, and have begun to cut contracts, travel and other items,” Huerta said. “But, to reach the large figure we need to cut, we have little choice but to make up the rest through furloughing employees. This is not something that we take lightly.”

Coburn, in his letter to LaHood, said the FAA is sponsoring a conference in August called the Second Annual Asia-Pacific Flight Standards Meeting.

“This forum should not be a higher priority than immediate air safety measures, and certainly the expense to the Administration for this conference is highly questionable at a time when employees are being furloughed,” Coburn wrote.

“In addition, the FAA recently listed two job openings for ‘community planners,' one of which was posted publicly after sequestration took effect. … Located in Brisbane, California, and Helena, Montana, these positions are advertised at $57,080 to $126,095.”

The agency has also posted job openings for four management and program assistants with salaries up to $59,000, Coburn said.

“Leaving these six job openings unfilled would hardly put a dent in the $600 million in savings that FAA needs to find, but they do amount to the full-time yearly salaries of four air traffic controllers,” Coburn said in his letter.

“That means they could offset a full week of furloughs for 208 air traffic controllers. These numbers may not be huge, but they illustrate an important point: FAA is not doing enough to seek out ways to save money without affecting their mission.”

Coburn also asked LaHood to provide the amount of money the FAA is spending on travel, conferences and salaries.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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