Federal workers in charge of mapping U.S. airspace for pilots
and air traffic controllers are hoping that lawmakers will add
language protecting their jobs from competitive sourcing studies
to the 2004 Transportation, Treasury and General Government
Appropriations bill, scheduled for markup on Sept. 3, a union
representative said Tuesday.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 2703, which
represents cartographers and others in the Federal Aviation
Administration's National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO), has
gathered support from Democratic senators, but has not had as much
luck persuading “key” Republicans that the language is necessary,
said Ron Carberry, president of the local.
Maryland senators last week urged their colleagues to amend the
appropriations bill to block funding necessary for the FAA, NACO's
parent agency, to study roughly 220 aeronautical mapping and data
processing positions for competitions. The jobs, classified as
“commercial” under the 2002 Federal Activities Inventory Reform
(FAIR) Act inventories, should remain “inherently governmental,”
Democratic Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes said
in an Aug. 27 letter to leaders of the Senate Subcommittee on
Transportation, Treasury and General Government Appropriations.
“We think it's a matter of national security,” the senators
told their colleagues.
NACO workers supply data and charts of U.S. airspace to both
civilian and military pilots and air traffic controllers. This
information is “essential for flight safety, national security and
compliance with FAA regulations,” Mikulski and Sarbanes wrote.
“Clearly, the important work performed by NACO should remain under
the direct control of the FAA, which is responsible for the safe
and efficient use of airspace,” they added.
“NACO has thrived at FAA, and it is an efficient operation,”
the letter continued. “NACO has neither missed a publication
deadline nor been found liable in its 77-year history, despite
being responsible for continually producing and updating a wide
range of complicated aeronautical charts and chart products.
Because NACO is a perfect fit for the mission and organization of
the FAA and because it is such an efficient operation, FAA should
not expend scarce budget dollars reviewing the function for
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, an aviation
industry group with more than 390,000 members, supports
protections against privatizing NACO's cartographers and data
“Aeronautical charts and related publications are essential
sources of information for the safety of flight, national defense
and compliance with FAA regulations,” AOPA President Phil Boyer
told lawmakers during an April hearing conducted by the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.
“Aeronautical charting products directly support the operation of
the air traffic control system and the National Airspace System
infrastructure, and it is therefore logical that the program's
priorities remain under the direct control of the FAA.”
Terry Laydon, head of NACO's mapping and charting operations,
also supports shielding the 220 positions from competitions, and
filed an appeal in the spring asking the FAA to reclassify the
positions as inherently governmental.
It is unusual for management to take such a stance, Carberry
said. “[Laydon] is one of only two managers that I've heard of who
filed [FAIR Act] appeals.”
The FAA rejected Laydon's appeal, and another filed by AFGE,
saying that although NACO's cartographers exercise judgments about
data handed to air traffic controllers, these judgments do not
affect policy-making at a broad level. Also, commercial airline
pilots already supplement NACO maps with information from private
companies, the FAA contended.
Charts produced by NACO “clearly aid and support the dual
mission of safety and security,” wrote FAA Chief Financial Officer
John Hennigan in an April 28 letter rejecting Laydon's appeal.
“However, activities in support of an agency's mission do not
automatically become inherently governmental activities.”
Attempts to add language protecting NACO workers from
public-private competitions to the FAA reauthorization bill also
failed, despite support from Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.,
But Carberry said he is optimistic that even if current
attempts to add protections to the Treasury General appropriations
bill fail, lawmakers will ultimately pass the protections. AFGE
will begin lobbying the lawmakers at an earlier stage in the
appropriations process next time around, he said.
“We protect lives and property,” Carberry said. There are not
many private companies in a position to bid on the mapping work in
the first place, he noted. The few in a position to compete for
the work may not want to assume full liability for accidents
caused by mistakes in maps or data, he added.