Washington, D.C., June 30, 2011 – A bi-partisan group of 26 U.S. senators have signed a June 29 letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood raising concerns that the government's plan to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program represents "a troubling reversal of a decade-old policy put in place to uphold the privacy rights of thousands of Americans."
Organized by Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mark Begich (D-AK), the letter notes that the BARR program "provides owners of general aviation aircraft the ability to prevent the public dissemination of their aircraft movements. For reasons of individual security, privacy, and business competitiveness, this program is essential."
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed the support from such a large and influential group of senators, saying "Congress recognizes that important principles of privacy and security, and competitiveness for U.S. businesses are at stake.
"NBAA thanks Senators Roberts and Begich for spearheading this important initiative," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "They and the other leaders in the Senate who have added their names to this letter have sent a clear message that the BARR program should be preserved. In addition, the general aviation community and such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable have also called for the BARR program to be preserved, so that boarding an airplane doesn't become tantamount to forfeiting your right to privacy."
The senators' letter states that doing away with the BARR will do nothing to promote transparency into how the federal government operates, as some have claimed, nor will it enable operators of business aircraft to avoid detection from law enforcement, as others have argued.
"The Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies have always had the ability to monitor and track the location of users of the national airspace system," the senators' letter says, "and this won’t change with the continuation of the BARR program. BARR simply prevents unauthorized, non-governmental actors from knowing the location of private citizens."
The senators also stressed that it is "premature to unilaterally implement a regulation on a legislative issue currently before Congress," noting that the BARR program is currently being debated by the conferees on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill.
Joining Senators Roberts and Begich on the letter were Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), John Boozman (R-AR), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Dean Heller (R-NV), James Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Amy Klobachar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Udall (D-CO), David Vitter (R-LA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).