The House on June 4 approved bipartisan TSA reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2200) that would authorize $15.6 billion for TSA for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
H.R.2200 would create a biometric airport access enhancement demonstration program with a minimum of seven airports; establish a $10 million program to provide grants to general aviation airports for security upgrades; create an aviation security advisory committee with airport participation to advise TSA on issues pertaining to aviation security; and require competition for background screening services for aviation workers.
The measure also would require federal security directors to coordinate with airport operators on "security matters impacting airport operations" and to "establish and maintain operational protocols with airport operators to ensure coordinated responses to security matters."
The measure does not address airport employee screening or other controversial issues such as TSA worker collective bargaining rights.
The bill represents an effort by the House Homeland Security Committee to steer TSA policy on a more regular basis through periodic authorization bills - just as Congress does routinely with FAA authorization measures. No similar TSA authorization bills have been approved since the agency was created.
During debate on the bill, the House approved an amendment by Rep. John Mica (R-FL) and others that would impose tighter standards on TSA's issuance of emergency regulations or security directives rather than use of the formal rulemaking process. AAAE and a number of other aviation groups supported adoption of the amendment.
The House also approved a somewhat controversial amendment to prohibit the use of whole body imaging machines for primary screening at airports. Other amendments would: establish expedited screening protocols for individuals with top secret clearances; require TSA to develop and implement an expedited security screening program for members of the armed forces traveling on official orders while in uniform; increase the federal contribution to 90 percent from 75 percent for certain airport inline explosives detection system projects; and increase the number of canine detection teams for air cargo screening.