WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-NJ) raised concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration over the agency’s proposed changes to the structure of the William J. Hughes Technical Center located in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. The changes would restructure the current research, development, testing, and evaluation operations of the facility, decentralizing the center’s operations, threatening the effectiveness and autonomy of the center and impacting the numerous economic development initiatives in the Greater Atlantic City region.
“The William J. Hughes Tech Center plays a key role within FAA,” the Senators wrote to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “It offers world class laboratories and serves as a central hub for research, development, testing, and evaluation. As emerging technologies in Unmanned Aircraft Systems and developments in commercial aviation continue to advance, the Tech Center is positioned as essential to the future of aviation. The central management, yet collaborative coordination, of each of these interdependent functions creates a synergy that allows for more effective and efficient operations. This centralized model is in line with best practices for research centers and is utilized at many other research facilities across several federal agencies and departments.
“The William J. Hughes Tech Center is also vitally important to its regional economy, both because it currently employs approximately 4,000 individuals and because it is central to many economic development initiatives,” the Senators continued. “The Greater Atlantic City region is economically distressed due to historic reliance on the casino and tourism industries, and extensive efforts are underway to diversify the local economy by attracting new aviation related businesses. Due to its prominent role, resources from the Tech Center are often sought out by private sector and academic stakeholders for collaboration, making the center a major asset in regional economic development initiatives. Any changes that remove jobs or diminish the prominence of the Tech Center could undermine efforts to revitalize this distressed economy.”
The Senators concluded the letter by requesting “additional information on any potential reprogramming requests and plans to restructure or reorganize the center’s reporting structure, including all personnel moves, that the FAA has developed or considered.”
The full text of the letter can be viewed here.