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"New TSA Airport Worker Screening Effort Applauded By Industry, Panned By Congresswoman"
Monday, April 23, 2007
New TSA Airport Worker Screening Effort Applauded By Industry, Panned By
By Benet Wilson
Reaction to the Transportation Security Administration's new enhanced
airport worker screening program unveiled April 18 was quick, as I wrote in
the April 23 issue of Aviation Daily. Not surprisingly, the airport
industry was supportive, as they are part of the partnership to create the
program. But a congresswoman who has introduced a bill calling for a pilot
program to test 100% worker screening doesn't think the industry's plan goes
TSA partnered with the American Association of Airport Executives, Airports
Council International-North America and the National Air Transportation
Association to develop standards to increase the tools available for
screening without actually screening all workers, which I wrote about in the
April 19 issue of Aviation Daily.
As we were sitting listening to the presentation April 18, waiting for the
question-and-answer session, you couldn't help but wonder about the big pink
elephant in the room -- why this plan was a better alternative than the 100%
screening that Congress wants. And John Hughes of Bloomberg was first out
of the box, asking Hawley point blank why not just do 100% screening.
TSA Administrator Kip Hawley acknowledged those calling for 100% screening
but questioned the need. "There's clearly a comfort level in seeing people
go through screening at a security checkpoint. But it ties up resources that
could be better spent on what's happening inside the airport," he stated.
"It's a great idea to screen all employees, but then what else are you not
doing because of it?"
When pressed about the cost of 100% screening, Hawley said it was hard to
say without specific details. "But we've used $1 billion for all employees
all the time. But you can do more security with less money using our
multi-layered approach," he noted.
And ATA President and CEO James May agreed with Hawley. "ATA does not
believe that 100% physical screening of airport and airline employees
represents a prudent use of valuable security resources," he stated. "In
fact, it would be extraordinarily wasteful. Far more effective security can
be provided through random employee inspection, enhanced training and an
increased law enforcement presence."
But Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), sponsor of H.R. 1413. a bill to create a pilot
program studying 100% employee screening, disagreed with the TSA-industry
approach. "TSA's new regulations are one more weak substitute for full
screening. Nothing less than 100% percent screening of workers at all
airports will close this gaping hole in air security," she said.
"Meticulously screening passengers while inconsistently screening workers is
like installing an expensive home security system, but leaving your back
door wide open."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y) has announed plans to go even further,
introducing a bill that would require 100% airport worker screening by 2010,
but his office did not return phone calls asking for comment on the
Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), chair of the House Homeland Security
subcommittee on transportation security, is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"We have a responsibility to make sure our planes and airports are secure.
We are at a crossroads, where we must take action to find out what is the
best way to have a safe, secure and functional aviation system," she stated.
"Another attack might cause the public to avoid using our aviation system."
ATA's May suggested that any pilot program Congress may develop should be
focused more on what TSA has proposed. "TSA should also be directed to
develop a comprehensive understanding of the total costs associated with any
program and provide its recommendation as to the best use of resources," he
stated. "This effort should not be used as an opportunity by vendors to
sell more cards and gadgets."
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