President Donald Trump is proposing to shift oversight of the U.S. air traffic control from the federal government to an independent group, according to budget documents released on Thursday.
Trump, who called the U.S. air traffic control system “obsolete” in a meeting with airline executives last month, is proposing $16.2 billion for the Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget for fiscal year 2018, a reduction of 13 percent.
Some Transportation Department budget items are paid through the highway gas tax fund.
The document says Trump’s plan “initiates a multi-year reauthorization proposal to shift the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration to an independent, non-governmental organization.”
Privatization advocates argue that spinning off air traffic control into a non-government entity would allow for a more efficient system and rapid, cost-effective improvements of technology, in part by avoiding the government procurement process.
Opponents, including some airlines, say the U.S. system is so large that privatization would not save money, and would drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk. There also are concerns that airlines would dominate the private-company board and limit access to airports by business jets.
The budget would eliminate $175 million in annual funding for the Essential Air Service, a program to support commercial air service to rural airports and end subsidies for Amtrak to operate long-distance train service.
Amtrak would then “focus on better managing” state-supported lines and service in the busy Northeast corridor, the budget document said.The Trump budget would also eliminate the Obama administration’s “TIGER” grant program, saving $499 million. That program has been used to fund a variety of transportation projects, including high-speed and intracity rail, highway construction and transit bus systems.