Posted by John McHaleWASHINGTON, 31 July 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered contractors working on airport modernization programs -- some of which fall under the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program -- to halt work. The stoppage is because the U.S. Congress failed to pass legislation on giving the FAA the authority necessary for work to continue. "Unless Congress acts quickly, more work on projects critical to our nation's aviation system will come to a halt. Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification" says FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "The list goes on and on and this is just the beginning.""It is long past time for Congress to pass a full FAA Reauthorization bill," says Marion C. Blakey, Aviation Industries Association (AIA) president and chief executive officer. "We strongly urge Congress to pass an immediate extension of authorities while working to resolve their differences over a full authorization. Allowing the authorization to lapse has resulted in unconscionable and completely avoidable negative impacts to aviation and our economy. The longer Congress waits, the worse those impacts will be."Blakey says the stop-work orders affect contracts approximately worth more than $7 billion."Reports from AIA member companies reflect contract employee layoffs as well as disruptions to second- and third-tier suppliers, often small businesses," she says. "It's also unclear whether the FAA will be able to make significant payments to contractors in the next couple of weeks. Most small businesses lack the flexibility to absorb delayed payments -- lack of cash flow could force these contractors to furlough or lay off additional employees."Since many of the FAA furloughs have occurred in NextGen upgrades, the resulting delays could "undermine the economic and environmental benefits they are expected to provide."Construction workers, engineers, and planners were told not to go to worksites nationwide after FAA officials were forced to issue stop work orders on projects ranging from the construction of new air traffic control towers to the rehabilitation and modernization of air traffic facilities. Projects affected include: a more than $43 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport near Las Vegas, Nev.; a $24.5 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Palm Springs International Airport in Palm Springs, Calif.; and a $31 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Oakland International Airport in Oakland, Calif.To view a list of projects where "stop work orders" have been issued, visit http://www.faa.gov/news/media/workstop/. FAA officials say that this list will be continually updated until Congress passes an FAA bill.