A Call to Privatize Air Traffic Control System


Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today praised the Trump administration’s plan to modernize the federal air traffic control  system.

CAGW President Tom Schatz, who joined President Trump this morning at the White House for the announcement of the initiative, said in a  statement:

“President Trump is to be congratulated for proposing the creation of a nonprofit organization to operate and modernize the air traffic control system. It is well past time for this concept to be implemented. Privatization of the air traffic control system has been supported by CAGW since the Grace Commission included such a recommendation in its final report to President Reagan in 1984. President Trump’s plan to implement this proposal would cut federal spending, make the government more effective and efficient, and reduce taxes for  passengers.”

Following 9/11, President George W. Bush nationalized airline security and created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which currently operates at around 450 airports and fails to perform effectively or efficiently. Undercover tests in 2015 showed that fake bombs and guns slipped past TSA agents at a rate of 95 percent. Further, private screeners at San Francisco International Airport have greatly outperformed their TSA counterparts at the Los Angeles International  Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also failed to perform the tasks given to it by Congress, according to a January 16, 2016 FAA Office of Inspector General report, particularly in regard to the NextGen project to build a twenty-first century air traffic control network, despite being provided with a budget that doubled between 1996 and 2012. The FAA also continues to use appropriated funds for security programs that have shown little to no evidence of  success.

After 9/11, Canada established an oversight agency for aviation security but allowed private businesses to perform the screenings. In Europe, more than 80 percent of airports use private screeners, including the France, Germany, and the United  Kingdom.

The President’s proposal is similar to legislation introduced in the 114th Congress by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) that would create a “federally chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize the ATC system.” The nonprofit organization would be governed by a board that would include the transportation secretary, people nominated by the airline companies, and representatives of the air traffic controllers’ and pilots’ unions. The board members could not be employees of any industry  stakeholders.

CAGW is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in  government.

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