House passes TSA authorization, tells agency to consult GA

June 4, 2009

The House of Representatives on June 4 passed the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act (H.R.2200). AOPA supported the bill, which sends a strong message to the TSA to increase general aviation industry participation on security initiatives.

H.R.2200, the first comprehensive roadmap for the TSA to pass the House since the creation of the agency in 2001, authorizes TSA programs and funding levels for the next two years. It includes provisions to create a GA security working group to ensure that the agency consults stakeholders before imposing security initiatives and to establish a grant program for $10 million in security improvements at GA airports. An amendment to the bill revises the standard for when the TSA can use emergency procedures to issue regulations or security devices.

During the discussion of the bill, members of Congress acknowledged the contributions of GA to the nation’s economy and said that the TSA should collaborate with the industry.

“Members from both sides of the aisle have expressed serious concern about TSA’s approach when it comes to general aviation,” said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) in his opening statement. “Until recently, TSA displayed a lack of understanding of the uniqueness of the general aviation environment. H.R.2200 takes some major steps forward, with the authorization of a strong General Aviation Working Group and the establishment of a new grant program for security improvements to general aviation airports.”

A chorus of voices spoke on behalf of GA during the discussion of the bill, including other members of the newly formed caucus. An amendment to the bill reinforces that security directives—such as the controversial SD-8F, later clarified in SD-8G—should only be used to respond to emergencies and immediate threats, not as an alternative to the normal regulatory process. Amendment sponsor Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), along with cosponsors Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), all spoke in favor of the amendment. GA Caucus co-chair Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) worked the House floor to ensure the amendment’s success.