“TSA Reorganization” Legislation Introduced in House of Representatives
To: AAAE/ACI-NA Chief Executives and Airport Operators on E-Mail Distribution
From: Joel Bacon, 703-575-2478
Re: “TSA Reorganization” Legislation Introduced in House of Representatives
Date: December 7, 2005 – Volume 11, Number 63 – 5 p.m.
The Republican leadership of the House Homeland Security Committee today introduced legislation to “reorganize” the Transportation Security Administration. The bill, H.R. 4439, was sponsored by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY); Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cybersecurity Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA); and several other Republican members of the committee. The text of the legislation, a press release on the legislation, and a video clip from a press conference held today by several of the bill’s sponsors can be viewed at: http://hsc.house.gov/.
Among other things, the legislation would establish an “Airport Screening Organization” within TSA with the stated goal of “improving the delivery of federal security screening services” by “increasing efficiency, taking better advantage of new technologies, reducing unit costs, and responding more effectively to the needs of the traveling public, while enhancing aviation security.” Additionally, the bill would establish transportation sector advisory councils for each mode of transportation under the jurisdiction of TSA to provide “advice and counsel” to TSA on “management policy, spending, and regulatory matters, including interim final rules.” The advisory councils would conduct a coordinated review of the rulemaking and cost-benefit analysis processes of TSA and develop recommendations to improve the processes and ensure the public interest is fully protected. Membership on the advisory council would be composed of experts in each transportation mode, including representatives of labor and management. The bill also requires a report on non-screener personnel at airports and recommendations on the possible elimination of some of those positions as well as a report on recommendations for improving TSA’s acquisition management system.
On other items of note, the bill proposes significant changes to the Screening Partnership Program (opt-out). Specifically, the measure would require the establishment of standard operating procedures and specific requirements for security screening as well as a certification process for ensuring that “screening entities” operating under the program perform in accordance with those SOPs and screening requirements. Once certified, the “screening entity” (a private screening company or airport most likely) would be entitled to “all litigation and risk management protections applicable thereto.” Liability protections and defenses available to a certified screening entity would be extended to airport operators and other third parties. Additionally, the bill would establish a “Share in Savings” program under which cost savings could be used by the airport to deploy better technology, including in-line EDS installation. These items on expanding opt-out follow some of the concepts outlined by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority President Jim Bennett in testimony before the committee earlier this year on behalf of AAAE and ACI-NA. That testimony can be viewed at: http://homeland.house.gov/files/TestimonyBennett.pdf
Expanding the opt-out program to make it more appealing to airport operators was one of the key benefits that Chairman Lungren highlighted today at the press conference, as the following article from CongressDaily highlights: http://www.aaae.org/_pdf/_govpdf/HomelandSec12705.pdf. The article also notes that the bill does not have Democratic support at this time in part because provisions on cargo screening and rail and transit security were not included in the legislation.
Sponsor’s Summary of Key Provisions
According to bill sponsors, the legislation:
· Creates an independent, performance-based, results-oriented organization within
TSA to focus exclusively on airline passenger and baggage screening;
· Establishes an autonomous Airport Screening Organization (ASO) to focus on
customer service, accountability, and cost reductions;
· Appoints a Chief Operating Officer (COO) to manage the day-to-day operations
of the organization and ensure passengers receive the best customer service and most
secure screening procedures;
· Creates industry-led advisory councils to help the best ideas of management and
labor reach decision-makers directly;
· Requires TSA to develop a “Vetted Passenger List” that includes individuals
already cleared under other programs such as Registered Traveler, TWIC, SIDA, FAST,
and applicable federal security clearances;
· Establishes a “culture of accountability” within all levels of TSA to improve the
effectiveness of airport security screening;
· Encourages airports that decide to train their own passenger screening personnel
to invest in screening technology, equipment, and innovations—ultimately reducing
overall screening operations costs;
· Returns most of the savings resulting from new technologies to the airport, in
order to encourage additional spending on advanced technologies and security programs;
· Requires TSA to develop an accurate accounting and cost analysis for all TSA
programs in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective security programs;
· Requires TSA to focus resources on the areas at highest risk of terrorist attacks;
· Creates a program to instantaneously pre-screen all international passengers
traveling to the U.S.;
· Removes hurdles that have prevented airline pilots from volunteering to become
armed Federal Flight Deck Officers;
· Encourages the private sector to invest in cutting-edge transportation security
· Sets new performance goals for TSA, state and local governments, and the private
sector to improve airport security;
· Encourages state and local governments and federal contractors to compete with
TSA to provide the highest possible level of airport security; and
· Creates new training standards for airport document checkers to recognize
unacceptable or fraudulent identification.
While there are a number of ATSA-related changes of importance to airports that are not addressed in the bill introduced today, the measure does include some important provisions that attempt to deal with issues the airport community has raised with the committee this year. Among other things, the bill provides an avenue for additional airport involvement with TSA and the proposed ASO and enhances the opt-out program to provide more flexibility and a potential opportunity to creatively finance important technological improvements like EDS installation projects.
In terms of process, the Committee will likely consider the measure some time early next year. Between now and then we will be actively working with the staff and Committee Members to press for additional airport priorities. We will keep you apprised as the process moves forward.