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"House science panel backs increase in airport security funding"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

House science panel backs increase in airport security funding
By Elaine S. Povich

The House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
approved a bill Thursday calling for increased funds for research and
development of the next generation of airport surveillance and security

The bill (H.R. 2698) provides a total of $1.8 billion over the next four
fiscal years for research and development of airport projects under the
jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. The total is
approximately $117.4 million more than President Bush's request for fiscal
2008-fiscal 2011.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee were in agreement on the
measure, which now goes to the full committee for consideration. It was
approved on a voice vote with no audible dissent.

"This legislation is focused on ensuring the FAA will have the tools that it
will need to keep the nation's air transportation system safe, efficient,
and environmentally friendly," said Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall,
D-Colo., who sponsored the bill.

A key portion of the legislation strengthens the Joint Planning and
Development Office, which has the responsibility for developing the next
generation of airport transportation systems. Those systems include human
factors, weather, unmanned aerial vehicles and environmental research, as
well as radar systems.

It requires the agency to come up with a plan to ensure that the new
transportation system meets anticipated future air transportation safety,
security, mobility, efficiency and capacity needs. In addition, the bill
calls for a plan to deal with incapacitation of the system in the event of a
natural disaster or terrorism.

Udall noted that environmental factors have become increasingly important in
air transportation, especially in other countries.

"Recent announcements from Europe regarding the potential imposition of
emissions penalties on aircraft operations in the next decade have also made
it clear that the U.S. needs to better understand the impact of aviation on
the climate as well as what might be done to mitigate that impact," Udall

Ranking subcommittee member Tom Feeney, R-Fla., also supported the
legislation, particularly considering the coming demands on the air traffic

"The FAA is a unique federal enterprise," he said. "Twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week, it operates a complex nationwide network of
communications, navigation and surveillance systems upon which our civil,
military and general aviation aircraft are completely dependent. The
architecture of this system dates back 50 years. It is simply incapable, as
currently designed, of handling large increases in traffic."

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