TSA must consult GA stakeholders, says House subcommittee

May 13, 2009

Key members of the House Homeland Security Committee responded to concerns raised by AOPA and others in the general aviation community by calling for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to increase GA industry participation on security initiatives in a bill passed out of committee May 6.

In a markup of a bill authorizing funding for TSA programs, the transportation security and infrastructure protection subcommittee included provisions to increase stakeholder participation with the TSA on security initiatives affecting GA. Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Ranking Member Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), and other members of the subcommittee voiced concern with the lack of communication from the TSA to the GA community about its proposals that affect GA, particularly the controversial Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).

The LASP proposal would apply commercial airline security procedures to aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, regardless of how they are used. The Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act would create an Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) and a General Aviation Security Working Group to ensure that the agency consults stakeholders before rushing to impose security initiatives like the proposed LASP, which could have a crippling effect on GA.

“We have concerns about TSA’s proposed rulemaking covering general aviation,” Chairwoman Jackson Lee said in her opening statement. “In response, the bill establishes a general aviation security working group within the ASAC to provide stakeholder input and recommendations in these critical areas.”

The GA security working group would provide the TSA with recommendations on ways to improve security at GA airports. The bill also establishes a grant program for $10 million worth in security improvements at GA airports.

The TSA proposed its rulemaking on LASP in October without first consulting stakeholders about the rules’ potential effect on GA, and lawmakers from across the country have been urging the agency to work with stakeholders on an alternative.

During the markup, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) introduced an amendment that would have required the TSA to engage in a negotiated rulemaking process for the LASP proposal, obligating the agency to consider stakeholder input. The amendment was withdrawn with the promise that the subcommittee will hold a hearing on the LASP and GA.

“I am concerned that the TSA is moving ahead with a rule without having a true substantive discussion with the stakeholders that will be most affected by it,” Olson said. “I support improving security for general aviation aircraft and airports. However, I object to a rushed approach that abandons the objective risk analysis upon which TSA decisions should be based. I am pleased that the Chairwoman has recognized the need to further investigate this matter, and I look forward to working with her and the subcommittee as we move forward.”

Dent cosponsored Olson’s amendment, saying that the TSA overreached with the proposal. “Over the last few months, I’ve spoken with a number of pilots in my district (PA-15) who are both confused and outraged at the TSA’s effort to promulgate a rule that would significantly impact their ability to utilize their personal aircraft” without allowing them to meaningfully participate in the process, he said after the markup. He added that he will continue to pursue the issue “until we reach an equitable conclusion for industry as well as TSA.”

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) also expressed concern at the markup with the agency’s lack of consultation with GA stakeholders for the LASP.

The bill was passed by the subcommittee 12-0 and will be considered by the full committee before going to the House floor.