Today, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.), both members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to improve the safety of American airports by enhancing air passenger screening programs and bolstering state and local law enforcement partnerships to deter terrorism. The Aviation Security Innovation & Reform (AIR) Act seeks to standardize the training of the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) screening workforce by ensuring that every Transportation Security Officer receives increased baseline training nationwide and anti-terrorism training with bi-annual re-certifications.
"As elected officials, our single-most important task is keeping our country and citizens safe from terror attacks, and that is why I'm pleased to introduce the Aviation Security Innovation and Reform bill," said Sen. Brown. "Last year's Christmas Day bombing attempt was a stark reminder that terrorists are still actively plotting to kill our citizens, and we need to provide our law enforcement officials the tools and resources they need to adapt to the constantly evolving tactics of today's terrorists. I am proud to say that Logan Airport has been a nationwide model for aviation security these last nine years, and this legislation incorporates many of those passenger screening techniques that have been so successful. This is an important step toward bolstering our homeland security and preventing terrorists from turning our airports into battlefields as they plot their attacks."
"I am proud to be introducing this important legislation which would significantly enhance the Transportation Security Administration's security efforts," said Sen. Carper, a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "The attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 nearly a year ago was an important reminder that there is still more work we can do to make our aviation transportation sector more secure. As we work to improve our aviation security efforts, recent attacks in London, Madrid, Moscow and elsewhere remind us that terrorists are also targeting other modes of transportation and we have to protect those vulnerable transportation sectors as well.
"While it has been more than nine years since the 9/11 attacks that sharpened our focus on fighting terrorism and protecting our vulnerable infrastructure, we cannot let our defenses down and must adapt as terrorists change their tactics. We must continue to strengthen transportation security and make sure the men and women at our nation's airports and other transportation centers have the best training possible. To effectively detect the bad guys, screeners must have the latest tools and most advanced training. This bill bolsters the Transportation Security Administration's screening programs and enhances state and local law enforcement partnerships. As many have said before, the battle we're engaged in is not one we can win with guns or tanks alone. It also won't be won solely through the deployment of the latest screening technology. We'll need to get smarter, adapt to the new techniques of those who wish to do us harm, and invest in the people on the front lines."
The December 25th, 2009 attempted Christmas Day bombing and other more minor events over the years which showed the challenges TSA and its workforce face. Collectively, those events caused TSA to spend billions on various types of passenger screening technologies and other airport equipment. However, while technology is an effective layer of security, it is only one layer, and overtime technology and equipment can become dated. Investment in personnel training is necessary to bolster passenger screening and airport security.
The AIR act would address these issues by setting higher performance standards for screeners and raising the minimum training requirements to improve screeners ability to spot potential terrorists. It would also create an office to coordinate all of the behavior detection programs within TSA and the Department of Homeland Security that help TSA personnel spot terrorist suspects and other criminals without using expensive technology. There are currently disparate programs throughout the Department that study and implement behavior detection. This bill would bring them together all under one roof. Lastly, it would improve state and local law enforcement partnerships, which is something that is crucial to thwarting terrorism plots.