Badge requirements "without clear rationale"

April 16, 2009

Governor Schweitzer of Montana “America’s GA pilots have not been shown to be a significant security threat,” says Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana.

A controversial TSA security directive that would impose new security badge requirements and background checks on general aviation pilots based at commercial-service airports has drawn the attention of the governor of Montana, who recently expressed his concerns about the directive to the Department of Homeland Security.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer called the directive, known as Security Directive 8F (SD-08F), an “unfunded mandate, without clear rationale or justification.” He said the costly requirements would be unduly onerous to GA operations and urged the agency to review the directive.

Under the current version of the directive, pilots based at air carrier airports are required to undergo a security threat assessment and receive a security badge in order to continue to have unescorted access to their airports. AOPA has been working with the TSA since the security directive was first released in December 2008 and has urged the agency to work with those in the GA industry to develop a better plan that is less burdensome and restrictive on pilots.

“Governor Schweitzer’s concern underscores the importance of this issue to pilots across the country,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “AOPA is working toward finding solutions that minimize the impact of this directive on GA pilots at commercial-service airports.”

In his letter, Schweitzer said the security directive unnecessarily requires GA pilots based at commercial airports to go through a long and costly process to be cleared; this extra “level of bureaucratic supervision” is unnecessary, he said, because “America’s GA pilots have not been shown to be a significant security threat.”

“Local airports must fund the considerable administrative cost,” he wrote. “Many of our small airports, providing essential air service to isolated rural communities, will find this additional and costly requirement onerous and burdensome. … If TSA rules, policies and agents are viewed as an expensive, ineffective, bureaucratic nuisance, our general security posture will degrade.”

As a result of AOPA efforts and an outcry from pilots, the TSA has pushed back the deadline for compliance with SD-08F to June 1 and has said that it would address industry concerns.