NGATS Day on Capitol Hill/U.S. Senate

On Wednesday, June 28, 2006, more than 200 Senate officials and staff, government and industry leaders, and media representatives, gathered in the Dirksen Senate Building to share and gain further insight into the Congressionally-mandated NGATS initiative. The event was hosted by Senate Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Conrad Burns (R-MT). Speakers included Senator Burns, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and many others representing the agencies working together on NGATS. Click here for photos and a summary of each speaker's remarks.

From l to r: B. Sturgell, FAA, C. Bryan, TSA; R. Pearce, JPDO; Sec’y N. Mineta, DoT;
R. Sega, USAF;
J. Marburger, OST

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Conrad  Burns (R-MT) emphasized the importance of collaboration to NGATS—that agencies, Congress and industry work together to face the initiative’s great challenges. He also said now was the perfect time “to reform, retool and put to practice a new vision” of the national airspace system.

Secretary of the Department of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, who announced last week his pending resignation, spoke on the past and the future. When starting on NGATS two-and-a-half years ago, Secretary Mineta said that he knew he wouldn’t be able to see the Next Generation System come to full fruition during his tenure. But for him, it has been “an extreme honor” to serve President Bush and the American people by setting a new foundation and vision for our air transportation system in 2025 and beyond. That foundation, as he explained, is like the transportation transformation that took place with the creation of the interstate highway. “[We’re] going from single lanes in the sky to multiple lane highways – only this time it’s with technology and not asphalt,” he said.

Federal Aviation Administrator Marion C. Blakey discussed NGATS’ progress, which she said was due to the dedication and collaboration of the industry partners and agencies involved in the initiative. Thanks to their efforts, she said, the NGATS Concept of Operations, a document describing how the future air transportation system should be operated, will be completed by the end of the summer. “We’re setting targets and reaching them,” Blakey said. She also illustrated the progress the initiative has made with Automated Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), a technology critical to NGATS and increasingly a critical future component for both the government and industry. The Administration has requested Congress for $80 million in FY2007 to fund the first phase of ADS-B. UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, has also made a large investment in the technology. Countries all over the world are showing interest in ADS-B. We depend upon this progress, Blakey said.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the current air transportation system is approaching its limits, and stressed the importance of NGATS and NASA’s role in the initiative. He said NASA is doing long-term, cutting-edge research to increase the capacity and flexibility of the current airspace system. He observed that there was a lot of work to be done, particularly to increase the safety of air travel, but said that NASA is up to the challenge. He said that NASA was proud of its aeronautical heritage, and proud to be part of the NGATS effort with JPDO.

Dr. Ronald M. Sega, Undersecretary of the US Air Force, emphasized the Air Force’s successful partnership with the FAA. With the Air Force’s need for airspace access, the two organizations “share the same goal: flexible, safe airspace.”  The two organizations are working together by investing in technology like ADS-B and Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems, he noted.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger reminded everyone that, while sending information around the world can be done easily and quickly, the technology for sending people and packages around the world lags far behind it. Getting that technology up to speed requires the coordination of multiple agencies in order to effectively provide the research, transferal of technologies and new security measures. And the cooperation of these agencies is exactly what’s pushing NGATS forward now. But he also noted that big challenges still lie ahead. The “concept presents a systems engineering problem”: it must implement a new air transportation system while providing for today’s air passengers at the same time.

Charlotte Bryan

Charlotte Bryan, Acting Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management Transportation Security Administration, said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes the need for a more flexible air transportation system. She described the future system that NGATS will make possible, a system with layers of security that makes airports and aircraft more resilient to attacks and allows more people and goods to be moved quickly and securely. In the future, risk assessment will begin well before each flight, Bryan said, reducing the need for severe and reactive measures, like flight intercepts. She said that with NGATS, security functions will be integrated, increasingly transparent and cost-effective. She said the DHS was committed to this vision of the future and was proud to be part of NGATS.

Robert Pearce

Acting Director of the Joint Planning and Development Office Robert Pearce reflected on the progress JPDO has made towards NGATS. “Details are coming into focus” and “partnerships are coming together,” to ensure research and implementation of NGATS. By the end of it all, he noted, “We’re going to create the future.”

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