TSA security proposals need balance, committee says

May 20, 2009

Balance. That’s the message members of Congress are sending to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regarding its proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).

Third-party terrorist watch-list checks could be prohibited

Nongovernmental entities could be prohibited from checking terrorist watch- and no-fly lists, or lists derived from them, for aviation security. An amendment, introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), added to the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act (H.R.2200) would do just that.

“The ability to deny an individual their right to travel on public transportation is an inherently governmental function,” Olson said. “It must be carried out by a government agency and be subject to regular scrutiny.”

The bill and amendment passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee during a May 14 meeting in which the TSA’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) took heat from several representatives.

The amendment to the TSA Authorization Act would ensure that watch-list checking, such as what has been proposed as part of the Large Aircraft Security Program, be performed by government entities.

During a May 14 House Homeland Security Committee meeting on the TSA Authorization Act (H.R.2200), members of Congress expressed their concerns about LASP. Rep. Pete DeFazio (R-Ore.) stressed the need for the TSA to work with the GA industry to “develop reasonable security policies and procedures that strike the appropriate balance between security and the movement of goods and commerce.”

As it stands now, LASP lacks balance. It would apply commercial air carrier security measures to general aviation aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, regardless of the type of operation. It also would require crewmember criminal record checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security requirements.

“These policies must enhance general aviation security yet reflect the necessary flexibility and mobility needs of this diverse and important segment of our national transportation system,” DeFazio said. .

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said he agreed that the LASP proposal had several “problematic” requirements for GA that “may not be the most effective means of securing these types of aircraft.”

Thompson also noted that Congress would have more hearings on LASP to come up with a workable solution.

“I assure my colleagues and industry stakeholders that the committee will closely monitor the LASP process and provide the appropriate TSA oversight and support to achieve a fair, reasonable, and enhanced general aviation security program which benefits our homeland security,” Thompson said.

Other committee members, including Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), echoed DeFazio and Thompson’s concerns and called for a more balanced approach to GA security.