Look for the run-up to November’s U.S. presidential election to slow new rulemaking actions and policy initiatives (except emergency ones) by the FAA and other federal agencies.
It has become a tradition in Washington toward the middle of a presidential election year for the message to come down from above in the federal government’s executive branch: “Thou shalt do no new rulemaking.”
“One reason is to avoid any executive agency actions that might stir up controversy and influence the election,” said a retired senior FAA official.
“Executive offices are instructed not to do anything in the regulatory or policy arena unless it already has been cleared and is part of the game plan,” said another former top federal-agency official and longtime government operative.
“Agencies can proceed with rulemaking and initiatives that were in the works and aren’t controversial,” said former presidential appointee to an executive-branch agency with decades of experience dealing with the FAA. “Everything else generally has to wait. The exception is emergency actions to deal with air safety issues.”
A federal agency like the FAA can spend years identifying, developing, justifying and gaining support for new regulations and policies. For the FAA, that means an office like the Rotorcraft Directorate or Flight Standards Service must pitch proposed actions all the way up the chain to FAA headquarters. HQ then vets proposed actions from throughout the agency and prioritizes which ones will be pursued in the following year. The FAA generally doesn’t pursue more than 15 or 20 rules in any given year (emergency actions not included).
FAA officials then must get support to proceed with the new rules from the Transportation Dept. and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Every bit as important, they must get buy-in from key staff members on aviation-related and budget committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Staff members steer the decision-making of senators and representatives who vote on bills affecting the aviation agency. They don’t like to be surprised by an executive agency’s actions. Only when those boxes are checked can an agency like the FAA move forward on its rulemaking/policy game plan.
The tradition is aimed at cutting down on “midnight regulations.” The term harkens back to 1801, when President John Adams in his final weeks of office signed controversial legislation reorganizing and expanding the federal judiciary.
“Midnight regulations” came into use after the 1980 presidential election. Jimmy Carter, who lost to Ronald Reagan, published a record number of new federal rules — 4,531 pages of them — between Election Day and Reagan’s January inauguration, according to a 2008 paper by Antony Davies and Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.
Sikorsky Takeover Leads to Re-Branding
Lockheed Martin this month plans to rename its Mission Systems and Training segment to Rotary and Mission Systems following last year’s $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft and realignments related to the pending merger of its information services business with the federal contractor Leidos.
“The new name captures the breadth of our expanded portfolio and reflects the skills and expertise of the 18,000 new employees who have joined our business,” Dale Bennett, EVP of Rotary and Mission Systems, said. The name change is to take effect on Sept. 5.
USAF Seeks to Speed UH-1N Replacement
The U.S. Air Force is looking for opportunities to accelerate the UH-1N replacement program.
A service spokesman, Maj. Robert Leese, told sister publication Defense Daily the service plans to award a contract in fiscal year 2018, with initial aircraft deliveries anticipated in the fiscal 2020 to 2021 timeframe. Leese said the total procurement quantities, schedule to contract award and cost are to be finalized after acquisition strategy approval by the end of this month. Possible bidders include Sikorsky, Bell Helicopter, Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo. A replacement contract could run $800 million to $900 million. R&WI