More changes in store for LASP proposal

 - December 29, 2009, 10:35 AM

The proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), the target of controversy and ridicule since it was announced more than a year ago, will undergo more massaging before it is released as a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) “before the end of 2010.”

Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee early last month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano said the SNPRM will incorporate the input from general aviation stakeholders that it has sought throughout the rulemaking process.

This includes public comments submitted to the federal docket, five public meetings and “additional comment outreach sessions” with affected stakeholders to gain further input and feedback. In addition, late last summer the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) re-engaged its aviation security advisory committee (ASAC), part of the agency that is charged with recommending improvements in security methods, equipment and procedures for civil aviation. The ASAC had lain dormant for more than three years.

Under the original LASP proposal released in October 2008, all operators of Part 91 aircraft with an mtow of more than 12,500 pounds would be required to create a TSA-approved security program, put all flight crew through FBI criminal-history background checks, compare all passengers against the TSA’s watch lists and impose new restrictions on carriage of certain items in the cabin.

When the ASAC was reconvened, government and industry officials received an update on the proposed LASP that was rescinded earlier in the year after a storm of overwhelmingly negative comments, which have been estimated at nearly 7,400. Napolitano told the Senate panel that the TSA received about 8,000 comments in response to the original NPRM on LASP.

Napolitano said that the DHS has focused on securing the nation from the threat of a nuclear device being brought into this country, but vulnerability to this threat remains through a number of potential pathways, including general aviation, small boats and over-land smuggling.

“GA remains a concern to the department because of its ability to circumvent some of our layers of security and its potential to deliver dangerous people or weapons to the United States,” she said. “Addressing this concern while maintaining a robust GA sector is one of the purposes of the Large Aircraft Security Program.”

Commerce committee chairman Sen. John Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) agreed with the DHS secretary. “I also want to highlight that I remain deeply concerned about
the state of aviation security, especially general aviation security and air cargo security,” he said. “In particular, we remain far too vulnerable in general aviation.”

Rockefeller said that on the numerous occasions he has used an FBO at Dulles International Airport he has not seen any security measures such as metal detectors or X-ray machines. “They don’t even have them out there,” he said. “That should not be. General aviation has been long unaddressed as to vulnerability [to nuclear devices being brought into the country]. At some point, this becomes a little bit more than annoying.”