US Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Act with Digital ID Provisions

The US Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024, a bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes the FAA for five years and promotes the use of digital IDs and mobile driver's licenses in the aviation industry, despite omitting an amendment to halt facial recognition tool deployment at US airports. The act aims to strengthen aviation safety, address air traffic controller shortages, and support next-generation aviation technology innovations, with significant implications for privacy and security in the US. This description focuses on the primary topic (FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024), main entities (US Senate, FAA, and aviation industry), context (aviation industry and US airports), significant actions (passage of the act and promotion of digital IDs), and implications (privacy and security concerns). The description provides objective and relevant details that will guide the AI in creating an accurate visual representation of the article's content.

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US Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Act with Digital ID Provisions

US Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Act with Digital ID Provisions

The US Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024 with an overwhelming majority of 88-4. The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes the FAA for five years and includes several provisions to strengthen aviation safety and oversight, address air traffic controller shortages, and support the next generation of aviation technology innovations.

Why this matters: The passage of this act has significant implications for the future of air travel, as it sets a precedent for the use of digital IDs and mobile driver's licenses in the aviation industry. As the use of biometric technology continues to grow, this legislation could have far-reaching consequences for privacy and security in the US.

The bill includes provisions for digital IDs and mobile driver's licenses, although it omits an amendment proposed by Senator Jeff Merkley to halt facial recognition tool deployment at US airports. The act states on page 1,015 that the FAA administrator "shall take such actions as may be necessary to accept, in any instance where an individual is required to submit government-issued identification to the Administrator, a digital or mobile driver's license or identification card issued to such individual by a state."

Senator Merkley's amendment sought to impose a moratorium on biometric surveillance proliferation by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for at least three years, citing concerns over transparency and travelers' awareness of their rights. US Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman opposed the amendment, claiming it would add "traveler hours a year" to wait times. However, Senator Merkley countered that this was not true, citing the TSA's own website, which states that opting out of facial recognition does not add to wait times.

The reauthorized act would provide the FAA with $105 billion and the National Transportation Safety Board with $738 million for "safety and technology upgrades." Other key provisions in the bill include measures to strengthen aviation safety and oversight at the FAA, address air traffic controller shortages, require airlines to seat families together, and support the development of new aviation fuels or fuel systems to ensure the US maintains its competitive lead in the aviation sector.

Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) introduced several amendments and priorities in the bill, including prohibiting drones that pose a national security risk, providing flexibility for model aircraft hobbyists, preventing government grants from being used to subsidize the purchase of airport infrastructure from hostile governments, and safely streamlining the approvals process for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights. "This bill contains many provisions important to the Hoosier aviation industry and the flying public. I am pleased that it passed the Senate in a strong bipartisan vote and urge the House to pass this critical bill," said Senator Young.

The House will now consider the final version of the bill under suspension of the rules, with a vote expected ahead of Friday's deadline. The passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 with digital ID provisions marks a significant step forward in modernizing aviation safety, oversight, and technology, despite the omission of the facial recognition amendment.

Key Takeaways

  • US Senate passes FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 with 88-4 majority.
  • Act promotes digital IDs and mobile driver's licenses in aviation industry.
  • Bill omits amendment to halt facial recognition tool deployment at US airports.
  • Act provides $105 billion for FAA and $738 million for National Transportation Safety Board.
  • House to consider final version of bill with expected vote ahead of Friday's deadline.