I apologize if what I’m about to say causes anyone to cough up their lunch, but I’m going to completely agree with something that former FAA Administrator and now current Aerospace Industries CEO Marion Blakey said a few months ago. Yes, agree … at least with some of her thoughts.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that her comments directly relate to the confirmation committee hearings in DC yesterday for Marion’s former deputy Bobby Sturgell to become the next administrator of the FAA.
The hearings were just this side of a train wreck with the consensus being that the entire nomination process for Sturgell needs to take a little time out.
In an AIA news release, Blakey was critical of Congress for failing to confirm Sturgell before they left for the Christmas holidays … and she was right to do so. For the moment, I’ll ignore her political hyperbole about how well qualified Sturgell is to lead the agency, a place that ranks 29th from the top of the worst places in government to work. There are only 30 agencies on the list BTW.
Edited slightly for length, Blakey said, “A decade ago, Congress established the FAA administrator position with a five-year term to provide the stability and continuity necessary for an agency that is focused on safety and complicated operational responsibilities. Since then, both administrators have served full five-year terms … it is critical for the continued smooth operation of our nation’s air transportation system to have a person confirmed and appointed for a five-year term as soon as possible.
Blakely hit the nail on the head, but garnered little press for her comments in December.
The point of a five-year administrator in good times is to provide for some overlap between White House administrators who might consider removing an administrator who leans the wrong way, except in cases of gross incompetence. It was designed for continuity in an industry that is dynamic by its very nature.
Right now while the aviation industry may be building lots of airplanes and selling plenty of fuel and avionics, the system we operate within is in serious trouble. And the lack of a permanent administrator is making a bad situation worse as we struggle with how to build NexGen, how to pay for it, how to hire, train and retain enough air traffic controllers to keep our archaic ATC system functioning and a host of other potential pot holes along the airways.
We need an administrator. And we need one now.
She believes that a man who has played the FAA game most of his life and knows where all the bodies are buried at 800 Independence Ave. is the best person to continue to run the agency.
I think Bobby Sturgell is the worst possible choice for administrator, quite honestly.
While my guess is that Sturgell is probably doing the best job he can right now in all honesty, his skill set is focused around business as usual because that’s what he understands best. I’m sure he actually believes he’s thinking outside the box, but as we say in the real world, the results just aren’t there. At FAA though, people keep getting paid the same every two weeks whether they’re any good or not.
In the private sector they simply say a senior official has decided to pursue other challenges and they simply move on.
Mr. Sturgell’s dedication is simply not good enough. Our system has technology problems, labor chaos and severe money issues to deal with.
And Now for Something Completely Different
So please President Bush, and those of you on the Senate Commerce and Transportation Committee, … please find us a different administrator, one who has a decent change of actually fixing the problems our industry faces. We’d really listen to a man or woman who might like to try something a little different to break up the log jam we’re all facing.
We just can’t handle any more of the same thing we’ve been seeing for the past eight years. My guess though is that come November, things are going to be shaken up quite a bit anyway. Even more the reason we need some stability at FAA now.
And Marion, how about lunch soon? We can go Dutch.