President Bush is asking Congress to create a Department of Homeland Security. The President said last night that the new cabinet-level agency would absorb many existing agencies as part of the strategy to prevent future terrorist attacks on the United States. The recently created Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), which has become increasingly involved in security issues affecting general aviation, would move from the Transportation Department to the new Homeland Security Department along with law enforcement agencies like the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Border Patrol.
"This means that we will have to work that much harder building on our existing relationships with Governor Ridge, the head of Homeland Security, and TSA Under Secretary John Magaw to make sure that general aviation is protected as an important part of the U.S. transportation system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It is vital that efforts to protect America from terrorist threats don't miss the mark and curtail general aviation pilots' ability to fly."
The process of creating the new Department of Homeland Security is only just beginning. The President will now send a formal request to Congress, which will hold hearings to determine how the current responsibilities would transition to the new department. Some 26 House and Senate committees currently have jurisdiction over the agencies affected by the proposal. Congress could then approve legislation that would allow President Bush to establish the new department by January 1, 2003.