By Keith Laing - 04/14/11 08:04 PM EDT
In a statement sent to The Hill after the meeting, TSA said that Mica's committee does not have jurisdiction over the agency, which fact, they say, has been alluded to in previous committee meetings.
"The House of Representatives has determined, through its own rules, that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee does not have jurisdiction over TSA,” the TSA statement said.
“TSA has reached out to Chairman Mica to explain its reasons for declining the invitation, and looks forward to continuing to work with him and other members of Congress," the statement said.
Republicans on the panel were hardly in the mood to debate committee jurisdiction.
"We are the people's house. So, when we ask an agency head to come give an update to the people, to me it's blatant disrespect," if they refuse, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said.
"We will have them appear one way or another," Mica said, raising the possibility of issuing subpoenas to the agency.
The GOP wanted the TSA to testify about delays in implementing a "smart" identification system for pilots and other transportation workers. Congress in 2004 ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to create cards that contain photographs, were durable and could store biographical data. Previously, pilot licenses were not typically used as identification; they were considered credentials like a degree.
Mica said, thus far, the FAA has only produced licenses that are durable.
"They got one of three of them," Mica said. "The only pilots appearing [on the current licenses] are Orville and Wilbur Wright."
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) said he did not understand why it has taken so long to revamp the pilot license system.
"I can assure you there are no pilots that are against it," Hanna said. "They want airports to be secure more than anybody else. They're busy when they're flying, the last thing they need is trouble behind them."
FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Security Peggy Gilligan told the panel that the agency was still working out the logistics of the IDs.
"Due to the broad scope and economic impact of the rule, the FAA proposed to phase-in the requirement over a five-year period," Gilligan said in remarks she submitted to the committee. "However, FAA expects that most airline pilots and flight instructors will have the new certificate within two years and that most other active pilots will have the new certificates within three years of the issuance of the final rule."
But Gilligan knew that would likely not be enough to mollify Republicans on the transportation committee.
"FAA recognizes this timeframe is not consistent with the direction” in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, she said.