Congressional security studies might affect GA

June 24, 2008

Can the Civil Air Patrol provide more assistance to the Department of Homeland Security? Can “biometric identifiers” be added to airport ID cards? Congress wants to know.

“The answers to these questions might affect general aviation pilots, so AOPA will be part of the study process,” said Craig Spence, AOPA’s new vice president of aviation security and a former Department of Homeland Security official. “We will continue to work with DHS to ensure that any new security actions are reasonable and appropriate to the actual level of risk.”

The House of Representatives recently based two bills calling for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study using the CAP to support homeland security missions (H.R.1333), and using “interoperable biometric identifier systems” for personnel with access to “sterile” areas at air carrier airports (H.R.5982).

Biometric IDs include such things as photos, fingerprints, and retinal scans. And the issue could affect general aviation pilots based at some larger airports because they are required to have an identification card similar to the ID cards issued to airport workers.

“Reasonableness and cost will be the issues we’ll be watching out as the study progresses,” said Spence.

Congress is also directing the GAO to determine what capabilities the CAP might have to support homeland security missions, including border reconnaissance, aerial damage assessment following natural or man-made disasters, evacuation assistance, search and rescue, and transport of critical materials.