House urges curb on TSA ‘emergency’ rules

June 12, 2012

The House has called for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to curb its use of emergency authority to impose long-term security regulations and directives not tied to a specific threat.

Criticism of the TSA’s use of emergency authority to set security policies—to which AOPA has objected since 2008—came in an Appropriations Committee report accompanying the 2013 House appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

The House passed its version of the Department of Homeland Security Fiscal 2013 Appropriations Bill June 7 on a 234-182 vote. In a report accompanying its bill, the House Appropriations Committee called for the TSA to reform how it imposes security directives such as Security Directive 08F/G, which AOPA said could curtail general aviation access and threaten business operations at commercial service airports. AOPA said the directive, which took effect Dec.10, 2008, may create an unmanageable, costly patchwork of local airport security procedures.

The Appropriations Committee’s report to the Department of Homeland Security bill addressed the TSA’s “apparent overuse” of emergency authority to issue security rules and directives, which it said let the agency bypass established procedures.

Emergency authority has allowed the TSA to impose procedures that have “not been limited to any period of duration, causing economic difficulties for the pilots and aviation industry operators with no clear link to a specific threat situation,” the committee said.

“While the Committee recognizes that such emergency authority was established to allow TSA to put in place rapidly countermeasures needed to address emerging threats, there should be a distinction between those of limited duration or scope, and those that require a permanent or long-term change in security measures and practices,” the report said.

“The Committee, therefore, urges TSA to work with the industry on a way forward to normalize its approach to the set of security procedures required and utilize regulatory action in lieu of the current overreliance on emergency authority.”

“We commend the House appropriators for addressing the long-standing problem with TSA issuing security directives without clear justification, most notably, Security Directive 08F/G, and we encourage the Senate to adopt similar language,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.

Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security, added: “We are pleased that the House Appropriations Committee recognizes the negative impact security directives have imposed on the GA industry at airports across the country. Calling for their reform, and including the general aviation industry in those reforms, is in line with Administrator Pistole’s plan of a risk-based security approach.”

AOPA reported June 11 that security directives were among six regulatory areas the association named in a letter to a congressional committee probing the effects of burdensome regulations on the economy.

The House-passed bill would provide the Department of Homeland Security with $39.1 billion in discretionary funding, $484 million below the prior year’s level. The bill cuts $393 million from President Barack Obama's budget request. HR 5855 would provide $5 billion to pay for aviation security, a reduction of $212 million from 2012 and $57.5 million less than the administration’s current budget request. Absent from the House bill is the administration’s proposed increase in the airline passenger security fee. The Senate has yet to pass a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.