Monday, February 19, 2007

New aviation security legislation

Last week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation reported on a new piece of legislation known as the Aviation Security Improvement Act (S. 509).

The legislation, which addresses air cargo as well as passenger aviation security, includes a measure sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) to provide the long-term funding to U.S. airports and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to "significantly improve and expedite the installation of baggage screening and explosive detection systems at the nation's airports."

According to a Commerce Committee press release about the legislation:
The Aviation Security Improvement Act (S. 509) would require the screening of all cargo on passenger airplanes within three years. The cargo screening program strikes a balance between ensuring all cargo on passenger aircraft is secure and ensuring the movement of commerce.

The bill also addresses passenger prescreening, a primary concern of air travelers and Congress, where passengers are mistakenly identified as a potential threat. This bill would ensure a system is in place to redress mistaken identity issues and requires the TSA to move rapidly to develop a strategic plan to test and implement an advanced passenger prescreening system.
A welcome part of the Aviation Security Improvement Act for crews is a a provision that requires the TSA -- after consultation with airline, airport and flight crew unions -- to report to Congress within 180 days of enactment on the status of establishing a process that would give flight deck and cabin crew members expedited access through screening checkpoints. A news release on the website of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) says that ALPA staff worked closely with the Committee to draft this language.

Other provisions include lifting the 45,000 cap on the allowed number of TSA screeners, enhancing TSO screener training, and allowing TSA to purchase and distribute blast-resistant containers to carriers. The legislation also authorizes grant programs for piloting explosive detection technologies, and addresses general aviation security.

The legislation was introduced by Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Senators Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV), Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) cosponsored the Aviation Security Improvement Act.

The Aviation Safety Improvement Act now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Click here to read the full text of Senate Bill S. 509.