Airports Wins Preserved in Spending Bill

The House and Senate Appropriations negotiators have released the details of an Omnibus spending bill that will fund the agencies of the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014.  The appropriations process is the agency by agency funding process which follows the budget agreement from December, which set overall/ top-line funding numbers for the federal government.  As we had expected based on the budget agreement, the appropriation process has resulted in very positive developments for airports.  The Omnibus spending bill will fully fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the contract tower program, increases the numbers of CBP officers and reiterates that TSA must continue to staff exit lanes. 

The full details of the Omnibus spending bill, as it impacts airports, are below.  Although the current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on Wednesday, January 15, the Omnibus spending bill is not expected to be passed by both chambers and signed by the president before this deadline.  Therefore, in an effort to buy a few extra days to get the Omnibus spending bill passed and signed into law, Congress is expected to pass a three day continuing resolution to push the deadline out to Saturday, January 18.

Federal Aviation Administration:

  • Fully funds AIP at $3.35 billion
  • Funds the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) at $15 million
  • The Small Community Air Service Development Program is funded at $5 million
  • Contract towers receive $140 million, of which $10.3 million would be for the contract tower cost share program

Customs and Border Patrol:

  • The bill contains $10.6 billion for CBP, an increase of $110.6 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
  • This funding will allow for the highest operational force levels in history – 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 24,800 CBP officers – including an increase of 2,000 additional CBP officers slated for the nation’s busiest ports of entry.
  • In addition, the bill requires CBP to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of current passenger processing methods at the busiest ports.  CBP is directed to develop operations plans with stakeholders that incorporate wait times at each step in the process, such as the time it takes to deplane, reach the Federal Inspection Service area, complete customs and immigration processing, and claim luggage.
  • The bill expands on the public-private partnership program begun last year that enables CBP to be reimbursed for services and to accept donations.  It does not, however, provide any new authority for CBP to provide reimbursable services outside the United States. While there is no specific limit on the number of partnerships related to land or sea ports authorized under the pilot program, CBP may enter into no more than five agreements at CBP-serviced air ports of entry for overtime costs only.

Transportation Security Administration:

  • TSA is funded at $4.9 billion – a decrease of $225 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. 
  • The bill puts greater emphasis on risk-based approaches to passenger screening – including funds for intelligence functions, screening enforcement, Pre-Check expansion, privatized screening operations, cargo inspections, Federal Flight Deck Officers, and canine detention teams. 
  • The bill reiterates the agreement that was in the budget agreement passed last month, which requires TSA to continue staffing airport exit lanes.  Further, it directs TSA, in coordination with its airport partners, to continue to evaluate cost effective solutions to secure exit lanes.
  • The bill directs TSA to complete detailed expenditure plans for fiscal year 2014 for air cargo, checkpoint security, and Explosion Detection System refurbishment, procurement, and installations on an airport-by-airport basis.
  • The bill also directs TSA is to provide a report detailing the steps being taken to resolve claims from airports for reimbursement for previously incurred eligible costs associated with the construction and deployment of in-line baggage screening systems.