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Public Statements

Panel I of a Hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - Aviation Security Recommendations

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service August 25, 2004 Wednesday

HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE,

SUBJECT: AVIATION SECURITY RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT

CHAIRED BY: JOHN L. MICA (R-FL)

WITNESSES: JOHN F. LEHMAN, COMMISSIONER, 9/11 COMMISSION; DAVID M. STONE, ADMINISTRATOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

BODY:

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REP. BEAUPREZ: I thank the gentleman. At the risk of creating a revolt among the members, I would advise that we have to clear this room in supposedly 20 minutes, and we have another panel yet to testify-because we have another subcommittee hearing on a similar subject scheduled for this room. So --

REP. LOBIONDO: Well, you're not suggesting you're going to enforce now when you get to me, are you?

REP. BEAUPREZ: No. I recognize the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. LoBiondo, for his questions.

REP. LOBIONDO: I thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for being here and the work that you've done.

Admiral Stone, I know there was some discussion earlier from Chairman Mica about the recently introduced legislation which I'm proud to co-sponsor with biometric identification cards. But we're also talking about the-what I'm more interested in is the transportation worker identification credentials, the TWIC card. And my question to you is: When do you anticipate that the pilot project, the TWIC pilot project, to produce recommendations?

MR. STONE: The prototype just started, but there will be-all cards will be issued by November 17th for the 14 ports in Florida and the Philly area port and the LA/Long Beach ports. So by November 17th we'll actually have the cards all out and be looking at the lessons learned, best practices. The prototype is supposed to last about seven months, so by early spring we ought to be able to codify those lessons learned, and be able to apply them for how the formal roll-out of the program will proceed.

REP. LOBIONDO: Will they be for all transportation workers?

MR. STONE: The actual prototype will drive what we'll designate as the target audience for that. So we're holding off on announcing the direction where that will go until the lessons learned from the prototype are known.

REP. LOBIONDO: Thank you. In another area, Mr. DeFazio spent some time with this, and I'm in basic agreement and want to question little bit further about the new and improved technology that we're using to detect explosives and baggage for passengers. And I know with the TSA labs that are in my district the security labs, they're working on new and innovative explosive detection technology. But I know that these portals are being field-tested now. But there's another technology that I got a chance to witness uphand, minimally- invasive X-ray technology. And I was pretty amazed at what I saw. If I understood correctly, this was technology that was ready to roll out instantaneously, but there was a question about sensitivity, about political correctness, and because of this technology being able to basically display almost anything on a person's body or in a person's body, there'd be no way for a bad person to hide anything. But we're not able to use these-is that correct? -- because of some sensitivities?

MR. STONE: We're currently right now-this week, in fact-we have a briefing to present up through the department where this technology referred to which I believe also goes by backscatter or related technology-it's similar to it-that you can depict the human shape and then see objects that are secreted in private areas.

REP. LOBIONDO: Right.

MR. STONE: The fix is to have a stick person then shown rather than the actual human body, and then put on that screen what those objects are. The detector exists. We believe that we have a program that we are eager to push forward related to demonstrating that technology in the field. But as you state, we need to make sure that the privacy concerns are fully respected. But we're cautiously optimistic that we have a good presentation for that, and be happy to brief you on how soon we think we'll be able to get approval to conduct a pilot on that type of technology.

REP. LOBIONDO: Well, I certainly would be interested it. And I can't help but observe-I mean, we're still waiting to hear about the situation from Russia from last night, and we don't know for sure, and we don't want to speculate too much. But it seems to me that if we were to experience another tragedy of any magnitude at all that in any way, shape or form could have been protected from because technology that we have is available, but we didn't because of political correctness, that we would, number one, do something about that immediately; but, number two, there'd be a hue and cry. I'm just-I'm really having a hard time with-I know you have to be watching things carefully, but if we've got technology and we can use it and it can protect us, we've got to do it five minutes ago. We've got to find a way to get this stuff into the field. We've got creative people that are doing this. So I would urge you to do everything possible to make sure that this proven technology, when we think it can work, that we do something about it, and we do something about it quickly.

And would just like to add on the note that given the importance of research and development and new technology that we're seeing, and the recommendations by the commission, Mr. Secretary, that I think are right on the mark in many respects, I know that the TSA really has to be careful-at least this is my view-in repeating mistakes of the past of raiding R&D and technology funds for rainy day funds. The Congress appropriates for R&D and for this new technology, and the TSA has got in a box because of some other reason, and I think that's gotten us in trouble-can get us into bigger trouble in the future.

MR. STONE: Totally concur, sir. We don't want to mortgage our future on technology here, and so our budget decisions are based on accelerating technology to solve some of these challenging problems we have.

REP. LOBIONDO: Okay, thank you. Thank you.

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