Bush Signs Executive Order to Speed NextGen Air Traffic System

President George W. Bush signed an executive order today to hasten the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which is a 10-year modernization project that includes an overhaul of the U.S. aviation system's approach to safety. As the Federal Aviation Administration defines NextGen, it includes safety programs that evolve from today's "reactive data analysis" to "prognostic evaluation and management of safety risks" to prevent accidents and incidents and systemwide use of a Safety Management System.

Bush in his speech thanked DOT Secretary Mary Peters for her service and for her fast and effective response to the I-35 highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Turning to his executive order, he said, "Yet there's a lot more work to be done. For example, at an age when teenage drivers use GPS systems in their cars, air traffic controllers still use World War II-era radar to guide modern jumbo jets. That doesn't seem to make any sense to me, and I know it doesn't make sense to the Secretary and a lot of folks in this audience. Modernizing our aviation system is an urgent challenge. So today, I'm signing an executive order that makes this task a leading priority for agencies across the federal government.

"Members of Congress have responsibilities. As they take up the next highway and aviation bills in the coming year, they should adhere to a few principles. They should harness the power of the free market through policies like congestion pricing, which uses the laws of supply and demand to reduce traffic on our roads and in the air. They should ensure that taxpayer funds for transportation are allocated based on the true needs of the American people, not spent on wasteful earmarks or the political demands of influential lobbies. They should provide incentives for the private sector to develop new technologies, invest in our infrastructure, and help make our transportation system worthy of the 21st century."

The executive order directs the DOT secretary to set up a support staff within 60 days to move the implementation and to set up an advisory committee within six months. Other cabinet officials directed to assist are the secretaries of Defense, Commerce, and Homeland Security, and NASA's administrator.

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