TSA Goes AWOL on Pilot IDs

House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica slammed Transportation Security Administration officials Thursday for failing to show up at a hearing on a long-delayed plan to create a universal pilot's license with embedded biometric data.

Mica said TSA officials also had refused to meet with committee members in a closed door session.

Mica said he'd threatened to subpoena TSA Administrator John Pistole, but, so far, had not followed through.

"I can assure you, we'll have the TSA testify at some point in the future, maybe in a joint hearing with Homeland Security," Mica said. "We've got to get some responsiveness from an agency that, for some reason, doesn't want to respond."

A paper nameplate for Pistole sat at the witness table opposite Mica throughout the 90-minute hearing.

TSA told Nextgov in a statement that the Transportation Committee does not have oversight over the agency under the House's own rules.

"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 agency said.

Congress asked TSA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies to create the biometric ID in 2004, but so far, the card produced by the agencies does not include biometric data or even a pilot photo, and TSA won't accept it as valid identification at airport security.

Testifying at the hearing, FAA Administrator Peggy Gilligan blamed delays in developing an ID on other agency priorities, a lack of experience and expertise with biometrics and poor communication between agencies.

The FAA has published a proposed rule for creating biometric IDs, Gilligan said. She said the agency plans to publish a final rule within a year and to phase the IDs in over five years.