FAA safety inspectors deemed essential

Thursday - 8/4/2011, 5:44pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The 40 safety inspectors working despite being a part of the 4,000 furloughed employees during the Federal Aviation Administration's budget impasse in Congress are deemed essential or critical employees.

A FAA official said while it is illegal for federal employees to volunteer their time during a shutdown or furlough situation, the agency has said these 40 employees are critical to their mission, and thus can continue to work.

Federal regulations for all agencies allow for essential or critical employees to continue working during a shutdown.

"Because FAA's main mission is safety and most of the people deemed critical or essential are people who maintain safety, these 40 airport safety inspectors are paid out of the money that we are not authorized to spend, but because they are deemed essential employees they are still working," said the official, who requested anonymity.

Federal News Radio has received several questions from listeners about why these 40 safety inspectors are allowed to work despite the furloughs.

The official said FAA is funded two ways: through the general Treasury fund and through the Aviation Trust Fund.

Congress has not re-approved the FAA's ability to use the Trust Fund to fund its operations and personnel. The 4,000 employees who are furloughed are paid solely through the Trust Fund, while 43,000 other FAA employees, which include air traffic controllers, are paid through the Trust Fund and the general fund.

The official said the FAA continue to pay most of its employees through the general fund.

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