Among lawmakers, a groundswell of opposition to LASP

March 19, 2009

When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) proposed its Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) in October, it set off a storm of opposition – not just among pilots, but also among lawmakers.

From the state legislature to the top of the Committee on Homeland Security, lawmakers have denounced the LASP in a growing number of letters to the Department of Homeland Security and TSA. A House aviation subcommittee roundtable and letter from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) are among the most recent expressions of opposition, as members of Congress continue to urge the TSA to scrap the program because it would impose excessive and unnecessary burdens on general aviation operations.

“Clearly members of Congress are concerned about TSA’s proposal,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “It is now up to TSA to respond.”

The proposal would require crewmember criminal record checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security measures. These intrusive and costly security regulations could have a crippling effect on general aviation.

Recognizing general aviation’s contributions to their communities, lawmakers from a number of states began to call for the TSA to find a less burdensome alternative early this year.

Recently, leaders  of the House aviation subcommittee expressed their concerns over the issue in a roundtable discussion that included AOPA. At the roundtable, led by subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), key committee members said they are unconvinced that the proposal is necessary. One of the participants in the roundtable, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), also sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressing his concerns about the proposal.

In his own letter to the TSA, Thompson wrote that several critical elements in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the LASP “appear to be problematic, unfeasible, or overly burdensome to industry.” Chairman Thompson’s letter is especially significant given the committee’s jurisdiction over the TSA.

Legislative opposition to the LASP has been growing since the rule was proposed. In Alaska, the state took a powerful stand against the measure when state legislators passed a resolution urging the TSA to drop consideration of the proposal. Alaska’s delegation to the U.S. Congress—Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Don Young— also weighed in, and Gov. Sarah Palin followed up on their action with a letter to TSA.

Meanwhile, resistance was mounting in Congress. Seven members of Congress, led by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), warned the TSA to reconsider the proposal or face possible legal challenges and “congressional obstacles” to implementation. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and Rep. Todd Tiahrt wrote a letter on behalf of Kansas, noting that GA is “vital to the economic stability of Kansas and our nation.” Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.), Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), and John Kline (R-Mn.) each sent their own letters urging TSA to seek input from industry stakeholders.