The Senate late last night passed a bill creating the Department of Homeland Security. The new 170,000-employee department will include the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that is currently in the Department of Transportation. It creates a cabinet-level department with a Senate-confirmed secretary and a $37 billion budget. Tom Ridge, who currently heads the Office of Homeland Security for the White House, is expected to be nominated as the first secretary for the new department.
AOPA secured language in the bill that will help to protect general aviation. The bill directs that TSA will continue its original congressionally mandated mission of safeguarding efficient movement of people and goods throughout the nation and its borders. The language requires that the secretary for Homeland Security consult with the FAA administrator before taking any action that might affect aviation safety or use of airspace. It also establishes a liaison office within the new department for consulting with the FAA.
"It is encouraging that Congress has reaffirmed the mission of TSA, allowing the association to build on the extensive network of contacts within the TSA on common-sense approaches to general aviation security," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This also recognizes that the U.S. aviation system is critical to the nation's economy."
President Bush is expected to sign the legislation into law as soon as the bill is sent over formally by the House. That should happen this Friday. The transition to a new cabinet department, largest created since the establishment of the Department of Defense, begins officially 60 days after President Bush signs the bill into law. TSA will fall under the under secretary for Border Transportation and Security.