Massport Executive Director and CEO Virginia Buckingham praised yesterday's U.S. Senate vote strengthening airport security by putting highly-trained federal workers in charge of baggage screening, and urged the U.S. House to quickly adopt the Senate-passed measure. Massport first endorsed the creation of a new national security force to patrol the nation's airport checkpoints in a letter to US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta on September 26th.
Buckingham praised Sen. John Kerry for his strong leadership in putting airport security in the hands of the federal government, and called yesterday's Senate vote "the most important thing we can do to improve airport security in this country, and ensure a consistently high level of security across the nation."
Under the Senate-passed measure, a new security force under the control of the US Justice Department would deploy about 28,000 government screeners and armed federal guards at U.S. airports.
"This is a new era in air travel. September 11 made it clear that retrofitting the existing flawed system still leaves us vulnerable," said Buckingham. "Public safety is the most important responsibility of government. A well trained, highly motivated professional screening force, employing the latest security techniques, and held to the highest standards of performance and accountability will provide the greatest measure of protection, both for airports and the traveling public."
In place of the private companies that currently staff airport checkpoints, the new federal security force created under the Senate bill would only use agents who passed rigorous examinations and criminal-background checks, as well as completed 40 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of on-the-job instruction.
"Security checkpoints are an airport's most important line of defense against potential threats to public safety, and our security system is only as good as its weakest link," said Buckingham. "It has been obvious for a long time that security checkpoints operated by poorly trained, and poorly paid private workers are the system's weakest link. That will change once we adopt the Senate's plan to federalize screening at airport security checkpoints."
The Senate bill also contains Massport's recommendations to deploy state-of the art security screening technology, including biometrics, at select airports on a pilot basis.