With nearly $600 million in budget cuts pending due to this week’s sequestration in Washington, D.C., the air traffic control tower at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) may be shut down, according to a letter issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a letter to an FAA administrator stating at least 100 air traffic control towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 annual flight operations or 10,000 annual commercial operations would be closed.
A list of 241 airports across the country identified the field of aviation venues targeted for possible tower closure; SMO was on the list.
The FAA plans to reduce expenditures by about $600 million for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year.
Beyond the tower closures, a “vast majority” of FAA’s 47,000 employees will face a furlough, with one to two forced days off per pay period through September.
Midnight shifts at 60 towers nationwide are also expected to be cut. Furloughs and facility shutdowns will begin as early as April.
Other towers in the Los Angeles metropolitan area named on the FAA list for potential closure were located at airports in Camarillo, El Monte, Fullerton, Hawthorne, Lancaster, Oxnard, Pacoima, Palmdale, Riverside, and Victorville.
The potential cuts were made Feb. 22 with the looming possibility of budget sequestration going into effect March 1.
SMO has become a lightning rod of an issue for residents in Santa Monica and surrounding communities in light of the possibility that a contract the City of Santa Monica has with FAA to operate the airport is set to expire June 30, 2015. There have been some news reports that have indicated the FAA believes its agreement with City Hall, which was entered into in 1984, has been extended through 2023.
Last year, City Hall approved as part of its Biennial Budget nearly $3 million in capital improvement projects to take place at SMO, including airfield pavement rehabilitation, airfield lighting repairs, and building maintenance.
Follow The Mirror next week for an update on whether the budget cuts were made and if the tower at SMO is headed for closure.