The Bush administration yesterday asked Transportation Security Administration chief Adm. David M. Stone to step down, the Washington Post said in a front-page report. AOPA confirmed the story through its contacts in the security agencies.
"They almost need revolving doors to handle the comings and goings of TSA and Homeland Security officials," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We need consistent and steady leadership by the individuals that shape our fragile flight environment."
With the exodus of top officials following Tom Ridge's resignation, several top jobs in the Department of Homeland Security remain unfilled. Meanwhile, new Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is expected to announce major department changes next month.
"What remains constant is that AOPA will continue its ongoing efforts to reduce unnecessary security restrictions by working with Congress and the federal agencies," Boyer said. "And we continue to tell them - GA is not a threat."
And there may be a growing recognition of that in Washington.
In a recent interview with AOPA Pilot magazine, Rep. John Mica, the chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, said, "Anyone knows you could load into an SUV or a U-Haul much more dangerous quantities of explosives or biological materials than you can in a small airplane. We need to look at a risk-based system and spend our money where it makes the most sense. We can't close off general aviation in this country." (You can read more of that interview in the upcoming June issue of Pilot.)
Chertoff seems to be headed down the same path. He has on several occasions said that his agency must set priorities by degree of risk. He has specifically talked about shifting federal security funds from smaller communities to large cities - like New York - that are at a much greater risk for a terrorist attack.
"The same idea applies to general aviation," said Boyer, "and we'll continue to carry that message to Sec. Chertoff, the new TSA chief, and the rest of the security establishment."
AOPA also will continue its proactive security programs, like Airport Watch. "We recognize that terrorism threatens us all, and that general action can, and should, be part of the solution," he said.
David Stone was the third TSA chief in about as many years. According to the press reports, he will be stepping down in June. AOPA had excellent relations with Adm. Stone, who was a featured speaker at last year's AOPA Expo in Long Beach, California ( See a video of Stone's speech).
"We hope that Adm. Stone's successor will demonstrate the same openness and desire to understand and work with the industry," said Boyer.
April 8, 2005