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Remarks by the President at White House Conference on Travel and Tourism

Monday, October 30, 1995

FAA Reform excerpt from the President's remarks:

"Finally, let me say that we are trying to do two more things to make the government work better and cost less that directly affect the travel and tourism industry. The Vice President is going to speak to you tomorrow, and he will talk about the work we've done in reinventing government with the Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service which has changed the way we greet our own citizens and visitors as they enter the United States. If you're coming or going legally, we want to get the government out of the way and get you on your way. And that will make a big difference if we do it right.

"Now, finally, I want to mention this second point. We have worked very hard to enact reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration. Having a Federal Aviation Administration that works, that has the confidence of all Americans, that operates the airports efficiently and safely -- that has a lot to do with how those of you in travel and tourism do unless you get all your customers off the road. And it is a very important thing for the United States, for our economy, for the convenience and for the safety of our people.

"The FAA controls the bottom-line efficiency of the airline industry. Yet, believe it or not, its air traffic control system in many places still depends upon Stone Age technology that's often older than the flight controllers using it. I know that's hard to believe. At a time when our private sector is building the most advanced airplanes in the world, the FAA is still buying vacuum tubes like this -- the Vice President gave me this just before I came over -- to run the computers and the radar systems that ought to be run by chips. We actually have to buy these vacuum tubes for some of the old computers and radar systems from other countries because they're not even produced here anymore.

"Now, this is unacceptable. Americans have a right to believe that the FAA will be run with the highest technology in the world, and they will get where they're going on time at a reasonable cost and at maximum safety. I never want a parent to think twice when a child asks if the flying is safe.

"Now, we've been very blessed by very safe and careful airlines, and our control and regulatory system has worked very well over time. But we also know that there's no point in pretending something's all right when it's not. It is not all right that the FAA does not have the highest technology; safest, most efficient equipment in the world. That is not all right. We have to change that.

"That's why more than two years ago I made FAA reform a top priority and asked the Vice President to include it at the top of his list in the National Performance Review. In early 1994, almost two years ago, we sent Congress a plan to overhaul the agency. Building on suggestions from the airline commission that helped us to turn the airline industry around, we called for a procurement system that gets the FAA new technology while it's still on the cutting edge; a new personnel system that puts controllers where they're needed and rewards them for good work; and a radically new financing system that ensures stability, demands accountability, and provides incentives for efficiency.

"We've done everything we could to fix the FAA on our own. Secretary Peña and Administrator Hinson brought in a new management team and put in plans to modernize the system. We have speeded up the replacement of failing computers at some of our busiest air traffic centers, so there will be fewer of these and more of the chips. And we have stepped up training for controllers and technicians.

"But, unfortunately, we cannot do everything we need to alone. We have to have some legislative help. And I am very pleased that Congress has put together finally a transportation appropriations bill that embraces the personnel and the procurement reforms we asked for two years ago. I am very gratified that members of both parties came together to create this important legislation. And I'd like to give a special word of thanks to Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon. When this bill hits my desk, I intend to sign it. And we will get FAA back on a glide path to the 21st century.

"But there's more to do. We still have to overhaul the financing of FAA. Today's budget process simply does not guarantee the agency the long-range funding it needs to operate safely and efficiently. Again, let me thank Congressman Oberstar and Senators McCain, Ford and Hollings for their work on this. I want Congress to redouble their efforts. We have got to fix this problem once and for all."

Full text of President Clinton's speech

104th Congress Legislative Index

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