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"Omnibus Contains Funding for Domestic Airline Passenger Screening Program"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Omnibus Contains Funding for Domestic Airline Passenger Screening Program 
By Matthew M. Johnson
Congressional Quarterly Today 

A long-sought domestic airline passenger screening program is likely to get
off the ground in fiscal 2008, after the House clears a broad spending bill
this week. 

The omnibus spending bill (HR 2764) moving through Congress includes roughly
$50 million for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to begin
testing the Secure Flight program. 

The House passed the bill Monday and the Senate is expected to support that
level of funding for the program, despite having included only $28 million
for Secure Flight in its original Homeland Security appropriations bill (S
1644). The House version of the fiscal 2008 Homeland Security spending bill
(HR 2638) included $40 million.

Similar to the Senate's original spending bill, the omnibus bill allows TSA
to transfer as much as $24 million from fiscal 2007 funding for Secure
Flight, meaning that as much as $74 million could be available for the
program in fiscal 2008.

The White House had requested $37.6 million for Secure Flight.

Under the program, TSA will take over watch-list responsibilities from
airlines. Currently, air carriers can download updated terrorist watch lists
every day and use them to vet their passenger manifests for threats.

However, that process has led to repeated instances of misidentification, in
part because airlines vary with regard to how often they update their lists.

Secure Flight is designed to address this problem. The new program will
require airlines to begin sending TSA passenger manifest information 72
hours before a flight's takeoff and continue until the aircraft takes off.

After the passenger information is collected, it will be compared with a
TSA-maintained repository of government watch lists, and the results will be
transmitted back to air carriers.

"TSA appreciates the support of Congress, and this will enable us to clear
up the watch-list issues where name matches unnecessarily delay travelers,"
said Kip Hawley, TSA administrator. "This is a big step forward for Secure

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