Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Ranking Member of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, along with the Democratic members of the Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 1204 - to authorize the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) into law.
ASAC, originally created in 1989 after the Pan American World Airways Flight 103, was created to ensure a proper dialogue between relevant stakeholders and policy makers when establishing robust aviation security policy. However, ASAC became inactive for many years under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and only renewed its charter in 2011, under Administrator John Pistole.
Despite this, ASAC was not consulted when TSA announced its "prohibited items" policy change last week -- allowing small knives and sporting equipment as carry-ons on an airplane. Not surprising, this announcement immediately received significant criticism from industry representatives, air carriers, passenger groups, flight attendants, pilots, law enforcement groups, and even TSA's frontline screener workforce.
H.R. 1204 authorizes the ASAC into law and requires the Assistant Secretary to consult with the ASAC on aviation security related matters. The bill also requires the establishment of targeted working groups on air cargo, general aviation, perimeter security and risk based security, which will allow the ASAC to address security issues that require effective collaboration between the government and key stakeholders, including labor and the private sector.
Congressman Thompson released the following statement on H.R. 1204:
"By formally establishing the ASAC into law, we can ensure that TSA will use this valuable tool and it will not flounder into irrelevance as in the past. This recent lapse in policy making shows that we need a proper dialog on creating security policy more than ever. When developing policies that affect millions of passengers and frontline workers, we must make sure that any impact is taken into account. This bill will strengthen processes at TSA to ensure the security and safety of the flying public and mitigate ever-present terrorist threats."
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, added the following statement:
"With the authorization of ASAC, I look forward to continuing oversight of TSA while engaging in dialog that supports the decision making process of instituting effective and progressive policies. In light of recent criticism surrounding TSA and their inconclusive decision to alter their policy around prohibited items, I am optimistic that this legislation will allow us to close this gap and effectively enforce policies that strengthen the safety and security of passengers."
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), member of the Transportation Security Subcommittee released the following statement on the legislation:
"Authorizing and establishing important aspects of ASAC is a critical step in improving our transportation security and making sure TSA policies are well-informed. TSA Administrator Pistole admitted yesterday that TSA failed to properly consult with stakeholders like flight attendants prior to its decision to allow small knives on planes. While I appreciate Administrator Pistole's honesty, Congress has an obligation to ensure that such mistakes do not happen again. H.R. 1024 is intended to prevent TSA from repeating this procedural failure."
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), member of the Transportation Security Subcommittee added the following statement:
"HR 1204 is an important bill that needs to become law for our traveling public. ASAC is a forum for TSA to gather customer and stakeholder input concerning the effectiveness of security actions and proposals, the costs and burdens associated with security actions and proposals, and the general level of customer satisfaction TSA is engendering across affected constituencies. This committee has experience working together to identify problems, gather input and reach consensus on security issues that result in security initiatives and regulations that can be quickly implemented, are effective in terms of performance and cost, and have a lower impact on the commerce of aviation. By making HR 1204 law travelers and the private sector will once again have a formal voice within the TSA."
Congressman Thompson, along with a bipartisan group of more than 50 members of Congress will also be sending to letter to Administrator Pistole next week to inquire on the "prohibited items" policy change -- asking him to suspend the decision until the ASAC is consulted.