The House of Representatives has passed legislation that rejects an attempt by the Obama Administration to disarm qualified and trained airline pilots, who provide a critical and cost-effective layer of aviation security.
"Pilots are the first line of defense against terrorist attacks in the sky, and the most cost-effective layer of security that we have in a system that's prone to security breaches," said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), who worked with the House Appropriations Committee to stop the Administration's proposal to cut the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) Program funding by 50%.
The provision was included in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), approved last night.
"Having armed pilots in the cockpit is an important layer of defense against terrorism, especially given the endless examples of the massive TSA bureaucracy's other failures," Mica said. "It would be foolish to gut security programs that actually work, like the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, in which our airline pilots bear much of the training costs and help ensure the cockpit is defended."
Mica also helped lead the charge in including provisions to cut nearly $60 million from the DHS and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) bureaucracies. The number of administrative staff in the top-heavy TSA currently tops more than 14,000. This includes 3,986 headquarters staff in Washington, DC making an average of $103,852 per year.
Mica continued, "TSA is an agency that's out of control. The DHS Appropriations bill not only sustains the successful FFDO Program, it takes steps towards reducing expenditures for TSA's bloated army of administrative staff, and for programs that are not working," Mica added. "Congress must continue to reform this misguided agency."
Mica worked with House Appropriators to include the following provisions in the DHS funding legislation:
o The bill rejects the Obama Administration's proposal to cut funding for the FFDO Program by 50 percent.
o The bill reduces overall TSA aviation security funding by more than $57 million.
o In regard to TSA's poorly developed and ineffective behavior detection program, known as SPOT, the bill reduces behavior detection officer (BDO) funding by $7.7 million or 75 officers. This funding reduction is due in part to TSA's failure to demonstrate clear evidence that deployment of BDOs provides protection against terrorists. The Appropriations Committee directs TSA to apply a formal cost/benefit analysis, follow recommendations by the Government Accountability Office to improve the program, and develop a robust risk-based strategy for the deployment of BDOs.
o The bill increases funding for the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) by $15 million. SPP allows airports to choose the more effective screening model in which certified private screening companies operate under federal oversight. The Appropriations Committee directs TSA to comply with the FAA Reauthorization law (P.L. 112-95), which halted TSA's attempt to shut down the SPP model and strengthened airports' right to utilize private screeners under federal supervision.
o The bill reduces funding for the top-heavy TSA's management and administrative accounts.
o The Appropriations Committee also requires a report from TSA on how the agency is complying with the FAA Reauthorization law and implementing GAO recommendations to compare SPP and federal costs and performance.
o The bill caps the number of TSA screeners at 46,000 FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents).
o The bill limits funding to the DHS General Counsel's Office until TSA completes a final rule, nearly 10 years overdue, on foreign repair station security. At Congress' direction, the FAA cannot certify any new foreign repair stations until the TSA issues a final security rule. This is impacting jobs here in the United States as U.S. manufacturers need to provide repair services overseas in order to make sales to foreign customers.
o The Appropriations Committee encourages TSA to consider including a review of biometric data in the PreCheck program, and encourages TSA to move forward in considering enrolling low-risk groups, such as those with top secret security clearances.
o Recognizing TSA's overuse of Security Directives, the Appropriations Committee urges the agency to better utilize a normal rulemaking approach when time sensitivity does not warrant a Security Directive.
o The Appropriations Committee strongly urges TSA to work with airports and airlines on biometric access control.