Originally Posted by You
First and foremost, 4,000 more people nationwide have stopped getting their paychecks.
They are far from alone. There are a lot of people out of work right now due to cut-backs of government contracts, too. But the fact that government spending pays salaries does not justify the government spending money on jobs that don't need to be done. I'm not saying that all 4,000 non-essential FAA positions suspended by the agency's shutdown are in that category, but over half probably are.
Originally Posted by You
And there's more. Two years ago almost exactly, not long after the Colgan crash in Buffalo, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt convened an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, comprised of pilots, airline management, and the FAA itself, to examine the regulations regarding flight time and duty time for airline pilots. You may remember this happening--it actually made the news. These regulations have not been revised in any significant way in decades, since the days of prop planes, when crews seldom crossed more than a single time zone in a day. Moreover, the current rules were written before there was any significant science about circadian rhythms and all the other medical issues concerned with the kinds of lives pilots lead.
The president of the Air Line Pilots Association asked Cap'n Matt to take part in the group, and he spent six weeks at FAA headquarters to hammer out a draft of a new set of regulations. It was nice to have him home for a time, and he and the rest of the group worked very hard come up with a new set of regulations. They heard testimony from top people in the scientific world, worked to balance the impact on both pilots and airlines, did a lot of good-faith give and take.
In the two years since then, the regs have been slogging their way through the bureaucracy. There had to be a public comment period; the whole thing had to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office to determine any impact on the federal budget; all sorts of hoop-jumping.
Exactly, one year ago, Congress got impatient, and actually passed a law saying that if the final regs were not promulgated by August 1, 2011, the FAA's funding would be withheld.
This got their attention, and as far as anybody knows, the whole deal is supposed to come down this week, or Monday at the latest.
Naturally, we're checking the news every day to see whether anything happens. The cruel irony would be if because Congress has already withheld funding and shut down the FAA, the people who were supposed to publish the rules are out of work and can't do it. If they're not published by Monday, of course the FAA is in violation of the law passed last year by Congress, and is subject to having its funding withheld. . .again.
I believe this is what is known as a classic Catch-22.
And far from a ticket tax, this issue is one that impacts the safety of all aboard every airliner. It will still take some time to implement the regs after they're published, because all pilot contracts will have to be reopened and adjusted to mesh with the new rules. So the sooner this happens the better for all of us.
In that case, the agency needs to take a good look in the mirror and ask why it took nearly two years after the panel finished its work to complete the process and get the new regulations into effect. If sound, these regulations should have been in force no later than six months after the panel completed them.
As an aside, there are far too many bureaucrats in our government whose job is to draft new regulations. Most of these bureaucrats have to issue new regulations frequently to justify the continued existence of their positions on the federal payroll, and the new regulations often provide marginal benefit with considerable cost. The particular example that you cite is a notable exception in that there's a substantial body of new research behind the proposed changes so the new regulations should provide substantial imprivements in safety. Nonetheless, dragging out the process provided justification for the positions for that much longer while our airspace still is not as safe as it should be. AFAIC, this whole dynamic is completely unsatisfactory and thus needs to be changed.