Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act (H.R. 2200). H.R. 2200 authorizes TSA programs and funding levels for the next two years and also includes language to limit the situations in which the TSA may issue Security Directives (“SDs”).
SDs are intended to allow the TSA to respond quickly to specific threats, without going through the usual rulemaking process required by the Administrative Procedures Act (notice, solicitation and consideration of public comment, etc.) required for any long-term change in regulations. H.R. 2200 emphasizes that SDs, such as the controversial SD-8F, later clarified in SD-8G (which require background checks and badges for general aviation pilots and aircraft owners operating at airports with any form of commercial service), should only be used to respond to emergencies and immediate threats, not as an alternative to the normal regulatory process. Specifically, H.R. 2200 clarifies that security directives can be issued “in order to respond to an imminent threat of finite duration” and any regulation or SD in effect longer than 180 days would have to go through the public rulemaking process.
Although H.R. 2200 is a victory for general aviation, it isn’t the last word on SDs. In order to become law, H.R. 2200 must still either be introduced and voted on as a companion bill in the Senate or be reconciled with a different Senate bill in conference later this year. Now would be a good time to contact your senators and urge their support of H.R. 2200 and its limitations on the TSA’s use of SDs.