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Public Statements

Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Recently, while I was on a hunting trip up north, I flew out of an airport in Montana. The number of screeners actually outnumbered the number of passengers. So, when this bill came before the Homeland Security Committee, I offered several amendments, one of which would have required a GAO study of the current staffing levels at TSA to determine their appropriateness and whether or not staffing levels could be reduced by consolidation of duties and functions or by enhanced use of technology.

In March 2009, GAO reported that, ``TSA has not followed Federal internal control standards to assist it in implementing DHS's risk management framework and informing resource allocation.'' I wanted to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer funds were being used in the most cost-effective and efficient manner and ensure that TSA wouldn't become known as Thousands Standing Around.

I'm disappointed that my amendment was not accepted. A number of commonsense provisions were not included by the majority, or were watered down to avoid the jurisdiction of other committees. Rather than produce a good bill and negotiate final language with other committees, our committee only allowed provisions to be considered in committee that were wholly within the Committee on Homeland Security's rule 10 jurisdiction. This bill could be much better.

For example, the majority showed that they saw no value in affirming TSA employees' rights to protect themselves during a public health emergency. One of my amendments offered in committee would have simply allowed any TSA employee to choose to wear a protective face mask in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak or other public health emergency.

TSA employees encounter 2 million domestic and international passengers every day and should not be prohibited by their supervisors from wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment in the event of a public health emergency, particularly when the disease is both contagious and deadly.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents many of the employees, voiced strong support for this provision designed to protect the TSA's frontline officers. The only reason this provision was essentially gutted by the majority with a ``perfecting'' amendment and any references to public health emergency was removed is because the provision could have allowed the Committee on Energy and Commerce to review the language requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to collaborate with the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Other changes were made to weaken other Republican amendments as well. At the markup, I, along with my fellow Republican members of the committee, unanimously supported an amendment authored by Representative MARK SOUDER that would have placed any detainee that is housed down at Guantanamo Bay on or after January 1, 2009, to place them on TSA's No Fly List. I think that makes sense.

Again, this amendment was gutted, giving the President the sole authority to determine if a former Guantanamo detainee should be assigned to the No Fly List. The committee must assert its jurisdiction and conduct vigorous oversight of the transfer or release of detainees currently housed at Guantanamo Bay.

The Homeland Security Committee is the primary authorizing committee for the Department of Homeland Security, which was created after the 9/11 attacks to protect our homeland. We cannot shirk our responsibility. It is justified and necessary for this committee to take a lead role in protecting and securing American citizens.

I'm pleased, however, that my cybersecurity amendment was included with others in the bipartisan en bloc amendment adopted by the committee. My amendment adds the vulnerability of cyberattack to the list of risks to be assessed and ranked by TSA.

Reports indicate that civilian air traffic computer networks have been penetrated multiple times in recent years.

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Mr. BROUN of Georgia. They include an attack that partially shut down air traffic data systems in Alaska. Our transportation systems are networked. Train switches can operate remotely. Even some metro buses can change a traffic light as they approach. It is a very important amendment, and I thank my colleagues for accepting it.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleagues and the staff on this committee from both sides of the aisle for working together on this bill and on numerous other amendments in a bipartisan manner. I'm sorry we cannot come to agreement on all of our amendments.

Going forward, I hope that we can work together to address the jurisdiction concerns that have caused so many problems for our committee.

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