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From the President's Desk...

Federalization of Airport Security
The Wrong Model to Protect Airline Passengers

The House of Representative plans to vote Thursday, November 1, 2001, on whether airport security screeners should work for private firms hired by the government or work directly for the federal government. To a newly created Transportation Security Administration, all responsibility for passenger and baggage screening as well as airport flight security would be transferred by the Transportation Security Enhancement Act of 2001 (H.R. 3110).This proposed legislationwould expand the size of big government by 28,000 new federal law enforcement jobs.The money for the new federalized system supposedly would be provided by a passenger fee of $2.50 per trip.

In contrast, the Secure Transportation for America Act of 2001 (H.R. 3150) is based on a proven model of air traffic security used in Europe and Israel.This measure would create a system that establishes clear federal responsibilities.It would require a federal supervisory presence at every security screening checkpoint and baggage checkpoint in the U.S.The billís greatest importance is the flexibility it gives the President since security issues are not the same from airport to airport.

Despite misgivings among some Senate Republicans about its authorization of an all-federal work force at the nationís 420 commercial airports, the Senate passed its own version of the air traffic security bill called the Aviation Security Act (S. 1447)†by a 100-0 vote on October 11, 2001.

The President asked Congress not to tie his hands by preventing him from turning to the private sector on October 25, 2001.The European model supports the Presidentís request so he said that ďGiving the government flexibility to use private contractors will facilitate transition to the new system, promote better screening services through competition, and ensure that security managers can move swiftly to discipline or remove employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards.Ē

Unfortunately, it appears that with some reluctance, the President will compromise his principles and will not veto a bill that turns over security screening to federal authorities indicates White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.

European Model

Since 1982, sixteen European countries have worked to de-federalize their airport security operations with most making these modifications in the last decade.Under the supervision of a 10-15 percent government law enforcement contingent, the security workforce is made up of an average 85-90 percent private security personnel.

In high-threat European countries, highly professional, public/private partnerships are on the job together, and the system works.

From the standpoint of security, European airports are particularly skilled at screening passengers.For example, in the 1990s they had only four hijackings.Usually private firmís activities are overseen by government officials.In Paris, for example, stationed at DeGaulle airport, there are 500-600 private security officers and 100 police officers.At Orly airport, there are 350-400 private security officers and 50 police maintaining security.Also, 450 private-sector personnel and 60 law enforcement officers are employed at Berlinís airport.Heathrow airport in London has 3,000 private security officers and 20 federal workers.There are 1,500 private security officers and 11 federal security personnel employed at Gatwick airport.†† And some 2,000 private workers are supplemented by 200-250 law enforcement personnel in Amsterdam.

In Europe, air terminal managers first chose to manage their security requirements public servants.However, currently they all depend on private firms to supply private workers to mange those operations because the other option did not work.

Screening workforces in Europe have wages often 60 percent higher than in the U.S.Often, turnover in the U.S. is 100 percent compared to 15 percent in Europe.Compared to 12 hoursí classroom and only 40 hoursí on-the-job training, Europe imposes strict training, with 36 hoursí classroom time and up to 200 hoursí airport training.Also, for U.S. workers, it is sufficient just to have resident-alien status where proof of European Union member-state citizenship is often required of employees.Companies and their employees are licensed by the government in Europe where in the U.S., companies or employees do not require federal-government certification.

Senate Aviation Security Act

Limited screening is provided by the Senate bill, overlookingthousands of caterers, cleaners, refuelers and others lacking mandatory background checks or secure I.D. cards.The Senate measure ignores the fact that in one out of every three attempts federal investigators have been able to breach security and gain access to tarmac.

Also, at times incompetent or untrustworthy employees will have to be disciplined and, if necessary, fired.If the employee is a federal civil servant, this is difficult to do.Flexibility is required when employees require reassignment or are retired whose positions are eliminated by new technology.In a federal civil-service bureaucracy this to often is difficult to do.

In size and design, passenger airports vary vastly.Unfortunately, what is likely to be a poor solution to many airports security problems is a one size fits all mandated solutions.Currently, one cannot deny that the answer for implementing more affordable and effective security as of yet has not been developed.For example, the cost and effectiveness is undetermined for many of the possible solutions such as biometric ID cards for employees and frequent fliers, sophisticated profiling of high-risk individuals and superior X-ray machines.

In Summary

To determine the best model to use at each of the nationís airports, experimentation by the nationís several hundred major airports could be accomplished through tough federal outcome standards.

In Europe and Israel such systems already exist.In dealing with serous terrorists threats, these countries already have two decades of experience.Many have already tried the top-down federalized approach in which national governments ran European airports for more than two decades.Airport corporations that are self-financing and that work very effectively were created by the government as part of an effort to modernize airport management.

It is the airportís responsibility to meet government set performance requirements when it comes to security; however, the means for doing so is the responsibility of each airport operator.††††

Legislation that would give airports nationwide government-run passenger screening processes is a foolish attempt by Washington lawmakers to make it appear like something is being done by the government to protect airline passengers.†† A federal takeover of passenger screening is a mistake.However, tougher aviation security regulations such as those that have been developed in Europe and Israel should be the basis for developing an American model.Congress should accommodate the President and give the government the flexibility to use private contractors that would facilitate the transition to a new system, and that through competition would promote better screening, and ensure that security managers can swiftly discipline or remove employees failing to meet the new rigorous standards.Ifthe House of representatives cannot pass the Secure Transportation for America Act of 2001 (H.R. 3150), the President should stand his ground and veto alternative legislation.

To make your voice heard, see Action Alert:House Aviation Security Bill at http://www.americanvoiceinstitute.org/Action Alert Aviation Bill.htm

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