FAA's fiscal 2019 budget request trims Aviation Safety Office (AVS) funding by 1.7%, but a reading of the agency's detailed budget documents suggests that resources will be stretched beyond the fiscal cutbacks.
The $1.276 billion AVS budget request calls for 7,187 direct full-time equivalents (FTEs), compared to 7,266 in fiscal 2017, the most recent budget approved by Congress. The agency plans to use "restricted hiring to achieve savings through attrition," it explained. It also transfers $14.7 million in funding and 30 FTEs supporting "Flight Program Operations" to the Air Traffic Organization.
FAA says traditional certification and oversight work will not increase much next year. But it sees a spike in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) work, as well as an increase in the level of complexity that some of these projects will bring. While FAA's staffing plan calls for adding AVS personnel "in the future," its fiscal 2019 strategy is to redirect existing resources.
"The number of UAS aviation products requiring certification and approvals services is anticipated to expand within the system and products as well as operational complexity is anticipated to increase as new technologies are introduced," FAA said. "These factors are driving the need in the short-term to reprioritize some of AVS existing resources for certification services and UAS integration."
FAA's internal data "indicates that the time to complete certifications for the design of new aviation products and airworthiness directives issued to correct aircraft safety deficiencies remained relatively constant," it said.
FAA's $16.1 billion overall request is about 1.9% below its fiscal 2017 budget. The U.S. Congress is still working on a 2018 budget; FAA and most other agencies are working based on the approved 2017 figures.