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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 22nd, 2013
05:07 PM ET

FAA closing 149 control towers

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it is closing 149 regional airport control towers due to the forced spending cuts that went into effect at the beginning of the month, the so-called "sequester."

The closures could seriously affect everything from travel to disaster readiness. There are an additional 49 towers run by the FAA still on the chopping block, today's announcement only concerns towers run by contractors, towers that handle mostly non-commercial flights.

The FAA says these closures won't have any impact on safety, never mind the fact that it means fewer eyes on the same number of planes. The real problem, according to the FAA, will be the delays.

The Frederick Municipal Airport just opened a new tower less than a year ago, with $5 million in federal stimulus money. Now it is one of the 149 that is getting shut down.

"One of the reasons we have a control tower is for economic growth," said Randy McClement, mayor of Frederick, Maryland. "We have a number of corporate entities that fly into our airport and then head down to D.C. The tower provided an extra level of safety to allow those corporate jets to come in."

San Diego's Ramona Airport is key to aerial fire fighting aircraft that protect 1.7 million acres of land susceptible to fire. Its control tower is also closing.

"This is a foolish move by the FAA and the federal government," says Diana Jacob, San Diego's county supervisor. "This is a public safety issue, this puts at risk the citizens, over 3 million people in the region, that depend on the Ramona Airport for their safety in the event of a wildfire or any other kind of disaster."

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