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Fact Check Friday: The Politics Of The FAA Furloughs

Farley: GOP Hits Turbulence with FAA Claim
Am empty station at an airport control tower (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Am empty station at an airport control tower (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - We couldn’t let today’s news about the FAA furloughs soon coming to an end go by without some fact checking on some things we’ve heard.

So, on Fact Check Friday, we enlisted the help of factcheck.org, a nonpartisan non-profit part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, to help us find the things that apparently are wrong, or at least misleading.

As Robert Farley put it on factcheck.org, “GOP Hits Turbulence with FAA Claim.”

The claim is that FAA is top heavy with lawyers and consultants who should have been cut before air traffic controllers were.

“This claim was that the Obama administration was trying to make the pain of sequester even worse and that they could have cut consultants and travel budgets first before cutting these air traffic controllers that are causing delays at airports,” Farley told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. “However, they point to this $500 million budget line that they say is for consultants and it’s actually for outside contracts.”

Farley said one of them is $225 million for telecommunications infrastructure that underpins the whole air traffic control system.

“So, it’s not really consultants as you and I would probably understand it to mean,” Farley said.

So, how much would be for consultants as most understand the term?

Farley said just $21 million of that $500 million actually goes to consultants.

Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania said the FAA spent, in addition to the $500 million on so-called consultants, $325 million for supplies and travel.

“When he talks about the travel budget, a lot of that is for repairs and inspections, not conferences or something like that, and they did trim that budget by about 30 percent, but they felt like they couldn’t go any further without endangering the safety of the system and so that they had to make some cuts to these air traffic controllers,” Farley said.

Then there is the sequester claim from FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

“Almost all of our employees, even what we would traditionally call essential personnel,” he said.

Why not cut the non-essential and leave controllers and avoid ever having the delays we’ve already experienced?

“They claim that their hands were tied the way the sequester. Now I will say that there’s been some developments today. The Senate last night, and then the House today, passed a measure that would allow the Department of Transportation to transfer about $253 million to pay air traffic controllers,” Farley said.

But that didn’t happen until we started feeling the pain, which might seem give a little credence to the Republicans’ claim.
Farley said that, to that, the Democrats say yes, but it took legislation to change it.

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