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Public Statements

H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MICA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank particularly the committee leadership, Mr. Carter, Mr. Price, and the staff. They've done an excellent job in trying to put into appropriations language, and amount of money expended, reforms that are long overdue in TSA.

I'm pleased to join the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Hudson) and my colleague, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), in this bipartisan amendment to restore the $25 million for the Flight Deck Officer program.

I can't, for the life of me, understand why the Obama administration would propose to Congress that we zero out one of the most cost-effective mechanisms we have to ensure the safety and security of the flying public.

Now, this program costs $25 million, and that's out of a $5 billion expenditure for TSA--$25 million. It is probably the most cost-effective layer of security that we have. Just a few dollars underwriting, again, the expense of training these pilots who have asked for the ability to protect their aircraft themselves and their passengers.

We put this in place--everyone was against it. You heard Mr. DeFazio tell the story of this. The Senate was against it. The administration was against it. The airlines were against it. We brought it out here in a demo project, and the House overwhelmingly voted to support this program; and it's done it time and time again because it is cost effective and it's a good layer of security.

Now, let me tell you what these pilots do. These pilots go at their own expense. They're not paid per diem. They're not paid for the flight. I went out to visit the program, and I have to admit, whether it was a Republican administration or a Democratic administration, everybody tried to do the program. And so they put the training facility almost on the border of Mexico. I had to take three flights--one to Denver, one to Albuquerque, and another jumper flight--and then drive almost 2 hours to the border to get to this flight facility. That's what these pilots are doing on their own dollar for a weeklong training program that, again, this is the cost of that training program but the expense is borne by the pilot. I saw men, I saw women, I saw pilots for cargo, passenger all going to get this training.

Why would you want to end a program that is so cost effective and gives us this protection?

So, I don't want to belabor this. Mr. Hudson and Mr. DeFazio have stated the case well. Thousands and thousands of flights are protected, and thousands of pilots participate on their own dime.

I urge the passage of this amendment and yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, first I want to again thank Chairman Carter and Ranking Member Price for their excellent work, and again his staff. They have gone through some of the expenditures for TSA not only in the dollar amounts, but also in the language that's contained supporting their appropriations measures, some excellent provisions.

Now, I do offer this amendment, which is no greater increase in spending, but does move some money around from TSA administration to support our private screening partnership program. As you heard earlier from one of the speakers, this program is very successful, it's cost effective, and many airports want to avail themselves of it.

TSA has thwarted all the efforts to increase the private screening under Federal supervision, and they came up with a whole host of excuses. Also, they have cooked the books as far as the cost of operating these private screening operations.

Now, you've got to remember that if you look at this bill, it puts a limit of 46,000 screeners, I believe, in the past. We've increased that from 40,000. Mr. Rogers and I did that some time ago. Actually, if you go online, you'll find 51,000 screeners. We're not sure exactly what the figure is right now. It may be less than that.

There are a total of 66,000 TSA employees. So that leaves approximately 15,000--even at our most conservative estimate--of the number of people in administration.

Right now, there is close to $1.2 billion spent on nonscreener salaries. That's $1.19 billion, to be exact, in this bill. So this moves a small amount of money--$20-some million--over to, again, the private screening account. I think it's justified. I think we're going to need it.

I have several amendments that I'm going to offer in a minute that I would like to expand, again, on the size of the bureaucracy and what TSA is doing to thwart the privatization effort that could bring cost-effective screening to play and do a better job and save taxpayers money.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman and Members of the House, I have this amendment and I have several others. I'm going to combine my remarks on this amendment and one of the other amendments to expedite this process.

I am very pleased that the previous amendment to take money out of administration--TSA administration--which I believe is extremely bloated, and putting it into, again, the private Screening Partnership Program, that successfully passed. With that passing, I had a second amendment to take a similar amount to put those funds into the transportation security support and intelligence account.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have created this multi-billion dollar bureaucracy that has been unable to connect the dots. Here is almost every terrorist incident. We'll put this in the Record. TSA failed every single time. They have never connected the dots. We need to be putting the money not into this huge screening bureaucracy that hassles veterans and little old ladies and children--and you've seen it all.

We have created this unbelievable detriment to the American right to fly and to be a free citizen, and it's so difficult to get this darned thing under control, but I'm telling you that the money needs to be going into security.

When Mr. DeFazio and I helped create TSA, the purpose was to connect the dots, so I would move money out of administration. They have 4,000 to 5,000 people just within a mile or two of here who are doing nothing, with most of them making, on average, $104,000. Someone told me who just left there that there were four secretaries in his office making over $100,000 apiece. Do the math. We only have 457 airports in the country. That means you've got about 17 people in administration out there and about nine in Washington in administration overseeing this program. It's totally out of control.

So the Mica amendment that I'm going to ask to withdraw in just a second would take money out of administration and put it into connecting the dots in security. I know that's a dumb idea.

Then the other thing is that the staff has done a great job here. There is some good report language, but TSA is thwarting the intent of Congress to allow the honest competition of the private Screening Partnership Program. We never intended to keep this all bureaucratic. Only Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland have a similar screening model as the United States today.

What they've done is they've packed each of the private screening operations with huge bureaucracies left in place. In San Francisco, there are somewhere between 60 and 85 TSA administrators who, most of them, are making in the $100,000 range and don't have a job. How would you like that position? In Kansas City, there are 51 that they left there of private screening. They don't need these positions. They leave them there to jack up the cost to try to make private screening look more costly.

So, while you have language again in this bill--and it's good language--we need to hold TSA accountable to stop cooking the books and to give us honest accounting, and then allow for the natural process of evolution to private screening under Federal supervision--you don't do away with TSA--then finally getting TSA and Homeland Security to concentrate on security and intelligence and on connecting the dots to stop the terrorists before they ever get to the airport or get to screening.

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