The aviation system of the United States is at a critical crossroads. Aviation activity is growing, the technology of aviation is changing rapidly, and the business of aviation is becoming more complex.

Yet, a critical piece of aviation's future is in doubt. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently lacks the organizational, management, and financial wherewithal to keep pace with the dynamic aviation community. Unless the FAA and various aviation stakeholders -- the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the aviation community -- change the status quo, internal and external to the FAA, our nation's aviation system will succumb to gridlock. Delays will skyrocket while we reminisce about the "reliable" flight schedules of the past. This current course will impair our domestic economy, reduce our standing in the global marketplace, and result in a long-term deterioration of aviation safety. In this regard, the Commission has made several critical findings:

A. Commission Findings

The National Civil Aviation Review Commission believes these problems can be rectified, but it will take dramatic changes in the way that the air traffic system and airport development are managed and financed. Institutional relations within the FAA and among the various stakeholders must be altered if we are to increase accountability at the agency, improve management performance, and ensure sufficient resources are used effectively.

The Commission notes that the identification of these problems is not new, and that previous Commissions and analyses have pointed to them. Among these are The National Commission for a Strong Competitive Airline Industry (1993), The Clinton Administration Air Traffic Control Corporation Study (1994), The White House Commission on Safety and Security (early 1997), and the Coopers & Lybrand FAA Independent Financial Assessment (early 1997). While these problems are not new, there is now a realization and a consensus as to their seriousness and implications.

B. Commission Recommends an Integrated and Comprehensive Package

Meeting the demands of a growing, complex aviation system is no small task. In this report, the Commission recommends broad and sweeping changes in the ways the FAA is managed, sets its priorities, assesses and achieves performance outcomes, and is financed. As a package, these reforms put the FAA and aviation stakeholders in position to take advantage of industry growth and technological change.

The Commission has agreed on a set of five broad recommendations that stem from their findings. The recommendations are viewed as a comprehensive package and strongly supported by all Commissioners. Any alternative to the Commission's proposal must demonstrate singular consensus to be credible. It must be recognized that the strong consensus within the Commission for these recommendations exists because they are viewed as a comprehensive package. Moving forward on implementing some elements of the package without the others being addressed would result in a loss of this consensus. The importance of this consensus is demonstrated by the shortfall of previous efforts which lacked full industry support to reform the FAA. The Commission's recommendations are included in the proposed legislation in Attachment I and are summarized below.

These recommendations are strongly interconnected. Without budget treatment that links aviation revenues and spending together, key capital investments will not be made despite industry's willingness to pay. Without movement to a cost-based system, FAA's improved performance will be limited, because the agency will lack critical data to judge performance and appropriate market signals to make sound investment decisions. Without management and organizational changes, there will be no guarantee that any dollar that goes into the FAA is used wisely and efficiently.

These connections are the basis for why the Commission's recommendations are comprehensive and sweeping. It is the belief of the Commission that without these changes, the aviation system infrastructure of this country will become an impediment to economic growth. Critics of these proposals, or defenders of the status quo, must provide a compelling alternative, for the current system is headed down a path toward economic disaster and reduced safety. Since this is unacceptable, the Commission offers its report as a clarion call to action and innovation.

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