President Bush on Tuesday nominated federal appeals court Judge Michael Chertoff to be secretary of Homeland Security, replacing Tom Ridge. Chertoff has also been a federal prosecutor, and he headed the Justice Department's criminal division where he crafted the administration's legal strategy for the war on terror.
"Judge Chertoff's record clearly shows he was deeply involved in all the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Our hope is that he can effectively parse the enormous detail he accumulated on the terrorists - such as separating their use of heavy transport-category aircraft from the realities of general aviation, which has never been used in an act of terrorism. Far too often over the past three years, all of aviation has been lumped together, to the great disservice of our more than 403,000 members.
Nothing in Chertoff's résumé gives an indication of how he might view general aviation. According to published reports, he is described by friends as a "quick study." If Chertoff is confirmed, AOPA will try to capitalize on that reputation and meet with him as soon as possible to make sure - as the association did with his predecessor, Tom Ridge, as well as TSA head Adm. David Stone and his predecessors - that he understands the scope of general aviation, its economic impact, and the lack of threat it poses.
"Clearly, we hope Judge Chertoff will use the same due diligence he has in the past by looking at general aviation's small aircraft fleet with careful discernment. The TSA recently did this and concluded that general aviation is not a threat to national security. We would hope that he would then come to the same conclusion as the Government Accountability Office, which after a year of study concluded that general aviation airports and aircraft are 'not a major security risk.'"
January 12, 2005