The FAA has contended it is making progress on improving air traffic control technology but has faced difficulties with securing consistent funding from Congress.
Trump argued that the change would speed up efforts to modernize air traffic control, which he said the FAA has failed to do quickly enough. He contended that the move would make travel routes more efficient and reduce delays that travelers see at airports.
Chao told CNBC later Monday that the air traffic control privatization would be a “cornerstone initiative” of the Trump administration’s broader goal of overhauling U.S. infrastructure. She said that the independent organization “will be free from all these government regulations” that “slow down” the adoption of new technology.
Republican House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania and some of his colleagues have long supported privatizing air traffic control. Some critics worry it would give airlines — which have lobbied for the move — too much control over the process.
Trump is calling for an independent nonprofit phased in over three years, according to a fact sheet distributed to reporters. The organization would be financed through user fees rather than tax money.
It is not clear whether congressional Democrats — who have backed infrastructure reform efforts — will support the measure.
The speech is part of a series of events this week in which Trump aims to highlight his plans to revamp America’s roads, bridges and airports. The White House has appeared to make slow progress toward its infrastructure goals as health-care and tax-reform plans move less quickly than Trump anticipated and scandals build up around Trump.
Chao told CNBC that other parts of the Trump administration’s broader infrastructure proposal will be unveiled throughout the week. The White House wants $1 trillion in infrastructure spending over a decade, with $200 billion in public spending supplemented by private funding.
Speaking at an automotive conference in Detroit on Monday, Chao said the Department of Transportation will update its autonomous vehicle guidelines in the coming months.
— The AP contributed to this report
Watch: Sec. Chao discusses Trump’s air traffic plan