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Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MICA. Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, I had intended to offer an amendment at this stage in the proceedings, but I'm not going to do it at this time because I have received some cooperation from the Appropriations Committee, and I want to thank Chairman Aderholt and the staff and others for including in this DHS bill some reforms of TSA that are long overdue.

The gentleman from Georgia just mentioned that this is an agency that is out of control, and it is important that we as Members of Congress try to get agencies that spin out of control under control, and that's, I think, what we're attempting to do here.

Let me say about this process, this is an incredible process and it's an open process, and so I thank our side of the aisle for allowing Members to have these opportunities.

We were closed off from many opportunities in the past to make these changes that are necessary in reforming agencies like TSA.

Well, let me say what they have done in this bill that is important, and one reason I'm going to support the bill--they need to go a lot further than they've gone, but one reason I'm going to support the bill is they have taken some opportunity to cut some of the administrative overhead.

Listen to this: TSA has grown to 65,000 employees. Of that, there are 14,000 administrative personnel--4,000 in Washington, D.C., not very far from us, 4,000 making on average--and they've got the statistics right here, the staff will give them to you--$104,000 on average per administrative person. Ten thousand administrative people out in the field. So this bill does reduce--I believe it's by about $60 million--some of that administrative overhead. That's only the beginning, but at least it's a beginning.

This bill also cuts out programs that have failed, like the Behavior Detection Program. It reduces some of the spending there--another program that doesn't work that we need to cut funds on. It does redirect some money. And I must congratulate the committee for restoring the flight deck officer cuts.

The Obama administration proposed disarming our pilots, 50 percent of that program--volunteer pilots who pay their own way to learn how to arm themselves to protect their aircraft, themselves, and their passengers; one of the most cost-effective programs we had. I guess that would be the way that the Obama administration goes. You want to keep the bureaucracy but do away with cost-effective programs. But thank you, committee members and staff, for restoring that.

So almost every proposal we made from the Transportation Committee for cuts and reassignment of funds have been made here--not to the degree I would like, but at least I will say it's a beginning.

Finally, let me say that we've got to do something to further get this agency under control. Last week, we learned a little bit about a meltdown in security at one of my Florida airports, Fort Myers. We got some information because we get tips all the time. Everybody tells us what's going on at TSA--except the TSA bureaucrats that are trying to protect their positions. You know, they waited until Friday afternoon and released a one-paragraph statement pooh-poohing what had taken place at Fort Myers and keeping our committee in the dark, trying to keep it from the public and the press and from Congress.

I took the opportunity to let the press and the public know what I knew--which wasn't much. And thank goodness for a free and open press because they went after TSA. We found out Monday morning, along with everyone else, what they had done in not providing accurate information, not telling us it was one of the most serious of meltdowns of TSA personnel. And we've had them before in Newark and Charlotte, we've had them in New York City and others. So this is an agency that's out of control. We need to cut the bureaucracy, as they've begun to do here. We need to realign where the moneys need to be spent.

I have no problem with spending money for security and making certain that terrorists don't take advantage of our most vulnerable Achilles' heel in the transportation network, and for the American public, that's aviation. We've seen them go after it again and again. But you need to spend the money where it makes the most sense and does the most as far as true aviation security. Expensive aviation theater security is not the way we're going to go.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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