TSA Changes After Knife-Ban Reversal Voted by House Panel

The Transportation Security Administration will have to consult with industry groups on decisions like its short-lived move to end the ban on knives aboard airplanes, under a bill the House advanced today.

The chamber’s Homeland Security Committee, on a voice vote today, approved legislation to make the TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee permanent. The agency would have to talk with the group as it develops policies, regulations and security directives.

Representative Richard Hudson, chairman of the transportation security subcommittee, said the legislation is a response to the TSA’s attempt earlier this year to relax the ban on carrying small knives onto commercial flights. The agency reversed itself in June after protests by flight attendants, airline executives and TSA employees.

“One day Harvard Business School will teach a seminar on how not to roll out a new rule,” Hudson, a North Carolina Republican, said in an interview. “This will be the textbook example.”

The bill, along with another measure approved today to force changes in the TSA’s contracting practices, provides the second example within a week of bipartisan support for a transportation issue, following the 16-day partial government shutdown. The full House on Oct. 23 passed a multiyear waterways infrastructure bill on a 417-3 vote.

The TSA measures were supported by Hudson, who stresses support for reducing government spending, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the panel’s senior Democrat.

‘Broken’ Process

Ideas such as relaxing the knives ban should be discussed with industry groups like airlines, airports and unions before they’re announced, Hudson said. He said he supported the policy change while criticizing the way TSA Administrator John Pistole went about it.

Republicans and Democrats on the committee agreed the agency’s methods for acquiring equipment, such as screening machines, are inefficient and unnecessarily complex, Hudson said.

The agency has a warehouse full of equipment it bought and never used, while companies have put time and money into developing technology TSA asked for before deciding it was no longer interested, he said.

“Everyone I talked to said the process is broken,” Hudson said. “If you look at the amount of money involved, this is a place we could save significant money for the taxpayer.”

David Castelveter, a TSA spokesman, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

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