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"House Subcommittee Considers TSA Reorganization Bill"


Thursday, March 9, 2006

House Subcommittee Considers TSA Reorganization Bill

 Airport Legislative Alliance

Airport Alert



To:                   AAAE/ACI-NA Chief Executives and Airport Operators on E-Mail Distribution


From:                Joel Bacon


Re:                   House Subcommittee Considers TSA Reorganization Legislation

                        In-line EDS Installation is Major Focus of Bill



The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cybersecurity today considered but did not complete action on H.R. 4439, the TSA Reorganization Act.  During consideration of the bill today, the subcommittee approved a substitute amendment offered by Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA) that among other things provides additional resources for in-line EDS installation.  A section-by-section summary of the Lungren “substitute amendment” is attached. 


The subcommittee debated but did not vote on several other amendments today, necessitating the scheduling of another meeting next Thursday to complete action on pending amendments and to give final approval to the bill.  We will have a full summary of the subcommittee-approved bill next week.  It should be noted that amendments regarding the mandatory physical screening of employees at airports did not come up as part of the subcommittee debate.  It is our understanding that those amendments will likely be considered when the bill moves before the full Homeland Security Committee.  It is not yet clear when full committee action will occur, but we will likely be back at you with a request for help in defeating amendments in this area.              


In-line EDS Installation Key Focus of Bill Considered by Subcommittee Today

In-line EDS installation is a major focus of the Lungren substitute bill with the inclusion of provisions that would increase to $600 million from $250 million the amount of mandatory funding provided annually for in-line EDS installation projects.  The bill also would authorize an additional $400 million for that purpose. 


In an effort to further bolster the amount of funding provided for in-line systems, Chairman Lungren offered a separate amendment – which was adopted by voice vote – that would allow certain airports to impose a $1 Airport Security Charge on originating passengers for approved projects to implement in-line checked baggage screening programs.  In his statement of support for the amendment, Lungren said that in-line systems should be completed “sooner rather than later” given the dramatic benefits of doing so, including cost savings to TSA.  Lungren added that the airport security charge and the other provisions in the bill would provide some $4.2 billion for in-line projects over the next five years and that without these changes, airports would be forced to wait 15 to 20 years for the full deployment of in-line systems. 


The same amendment offered by Chairman Lungren would increase the passenger security fee to $4 per one-way trip through 2012.  After that time, the fee would drop to $2.50 per one-way trip.  Under the Lungren amendment, the fees that individual air carriers pay to TSA to help offset the costs of TSA operations would be eliminated.  


The bill also seeks to speed the installation of in-line systems at airports through the expansion of the Screening Partnership Program (opt-out) and the establishment of a “share-in-savings” program under which eventual personnel and other cost savings associated with the deployment of in-line systems at participating airports could be used to reimburse airports for investing in those systems.   The bill seeks to encourage participation in the SPP by addressing liability concerns associated with opt-out and prohibiting TSA from any involvement in the daily operational decisions at participating airports beyond setting standards and evaluating performance.


Not surprisingly, the provisions to expand the opt-out program were controversial.  Subcommittee member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) offered an amendment today, which is still pending and will be voted on next week, that would eliminate the opt-out related provisions in the bill.  DeFazio argued that expansion of the opt-out program would “turn back the clock to the bad old days of private screening.”  Chairman Lungren responded that he was simply trying to devolve authority to the local level and let airport operators decide what works best at their facilities.  He added that the proposed program expansion would inject competition into the screening process, a fact that would result in increased security at all airports. 


Beyond EDS installation, the bill seeks to give airports and other industry groups additional input in reviewing TSA policy through the establishment of Transportation Sector Advisory Councils.  These advisory panels would provide “advice and counsel” to TSA on management, policy, spending, and regulatory matters including interim final rules. 


The bill also establishes an Airport Screening Organization within TSA headed by a Chief Operating Officer.  According to the bill summary, “accountability and efficiency are the two driving principles behind the establishment of the ASO. Under current practices, standard setting, policy, regulation and inspection of TSA airport screening operations are carried out by the same body within TSA that runs the screening operations. This section distinguishes between TSA's various roles and responsibilities and addresses the need to separate TSA's primary operations from its regulatory responsibilities. It formally establishes arms-length relationships between the ASO and the regulatory, certification, policy and inspections bodies within TSA to eliminate the conflict of interest inherent to regulated party acting as the regulator.”  The bill also requires a study of TSA non-screener personnel along with recommendations on “which positions, if any, can be eliminated without degradation of security screening activities.”


Proposed Amendments of Interest

In addition to the Lungren and DeFazio amendments mentioned above, the subcommittee considered the following amendments today:


No-Fly List:  Subcommittee ranking Democrat Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment to establish an Office of Redress within TSA to improve the redress process for individuals placed on the no-fly list.  Although the amendment was withdrawn, Chairman Lungren pledged to work to address the issue as the bill moves forward.


TWIC:  Ranking member Sanchez also offered an amendment requiring TSA to issue regulations for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential by June 1, 2006.  There was general agreement that TWIC was overdue, and the amendment was adopted.     


Air Cargo:  The subcommittee rejected by a 6-8 vote an amendment by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have required the physical screening of all cargo placed aboard passenger aircraft within three years. 


Prohibited Items List:  An amendment offered by Rep. Markey to reverse recent TSA changes to the prohibited items list was debated and is pending. 


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