Congress passes amendment to limit security directives

June 3, 2009

As pilots at commercial-service airports across the country adapted to new security requirements this week, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) led an effort in Congress to revise the standard for when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can use emergency procedures to issue regulations or security devices.

Security Directive 8F, later clarified in Security Directive 8G raised concerns among pilots about its potential effects on general aviation and a lack of input from GA stakeholders.   Mica, along with Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), introduced an amendment to the TSA Authorization Act (H.R. 2200) that would reinforce that security directives should only be used to respond to emergencies and immediate threats, not as an alternative to the normal regulatory process. The amendment passed in the House along with H.R.2200 on June 4.

“Congressman Mica and his colleagues have shown leadership on this amendment with their risk-based, reasoned approach to securing our national transportation system,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton.

Security directives, or SDs, provide a way for the TSA to respond quickly to specific threats, without going through the public comment period required for any long-term change in regulations. Mica’s amendment would clarify that security directives can be issued “in order to respond to an imminent threat of finite duration”; any regulation or SD in effect longer than 180 days would have to go through the public rulemaking process.

In a joint letter to Mica, AOPA and five other aviation organizations wrote that the amendment would direct the TSA to rely on established procedures for the strategic introduction of new security requirements, while still providing it the flexibility to respond to imminent threats.

“Your amendment properly balances risk mitigation and necessary tactical response with potential industry impacts and appropriate public review,” the letter states.