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Chairman Mica, Congressman Lipinski, Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the deployment and use of security related equipment. In the aftermath of the tragedy that occurred on September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), like the rest of the government, is rethinking how we approach security. The assumptions and strategies that were the basis of aviation security a few short weeks ago are being reassessed. No matter what overall direction and strategies we finally adopt, I want to assure you that the employees of the FAA continue to work tirelessly to identify and implement needed changes.
The goal of aviation security is to prevent harm to aircraft, passengers, and crew, as well as support national security and counter-terrorism policy. How we achieve that goal now requires that we take a comprehensive look at how airport screening is undertaken from workforce, technology, and procedural standpoints. The Administration is looking at all options and has not ruled out any alternative at this time.
Four years ago, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security (Commission) issued 57 recommendations, the majority of which focused on improving aviation security. Most importantly, the Commission acknowledged that aviation security was a national issue that required a national focus and reliable funding. In the area of security technology, it was recommended that FAA deploy existing security technologies, establish standards for developing technologies, and work with other government agencies and industry to develop new technologies. Thanks to Congressional support of these recommendations, the FAA has spent $445 million in the past five years to purchase explosives detection systems (EDS), explosives trace detection devices (TRACE), and threat image projection (TIP) ready x-ray machines. In fiscal year 2002, we planned to spend an additional $97.5 million.
One hundred forty-six EDS systems have been installed at airports across the country and we are working to deploy over 20 more in the coming months. In addition, we need to work with the companies that manufacture the systems to see how quickly they can produce more systems for continued deployment. Products of two EDS vendors have been certified and variations of these products are currently going through the certification process. Prior to September 11, EDS was primarily used to screen checked bags belonging to persons identified by the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). CAPPS allows the air carrier to focus EDS screening on a manageable number of passengers, for example, those whom we cannot discount as potential threats to civil aviation, based on parameters developed within the counter-terrorism community and reviewed by the Department of Justice to ensure the methods of passenger selection are non-discriminatory. CAPPS also selects a certain percentage of passenger bags on a random basis for additional screening. In the aftermath of September 11, FAA has committed to increasing the number of passenger bags that are randomly screened. EDS machines are now running continuously at those airports to which they have been deployed. In addition, CAPPS has been adjusted and we are exploring the potential for CAPPS to be used in conjunction with checkpoint screening.
In addition to EDS, there are three vendors with FAA approved Explosives Trace Detection (TRACE) devices that can detect the presence of explosive materials in a passengers checked or carry-on bags. Seven hundred eighty-nine of these devices have been installed in 175 airports across the country.
Another tool available to test and measure screener proficiency is software technology, known as the Threat Image Projection (TIP) system, installed on conventional x-ray machines. TIP electronically inserts images of possible threats (e.g., a gun, a knife, or an explosive device) on a x-ray monitor. The monitors show the image as if it were within a bag being screened. Its purpose is to provide training, keep screeners alert, and measure screener performance. High scores detecting TIP images equate to a high probability of detecting actual bombs and dangerous weapons. Not only can TIP data be potentially used to assess screener performance over time, but the results can also be used to analyze any correlation between performance and experience. New images will be added to the FAA-approved TIP library being installed on the x-ray machines at the checkpoints to improve screener vigilance and training. To date, 691 of these units have been deployed to 71 U.S. airports for checkpoint screening.
Aside from those technologies approved by the FAA, there are a variety of technologies in various stages of development, some of which would not require FAA approval if an individual air carrier or airport wanted to use them. As is the case with other areas in which the FAA has regulatory oversight, FAA sets a security standard airlines and airports must meet. It is routine in the airline industry for individual carriers or airports to exceed FAA standards in certain areas and I think we need to look at how that approach might be incorporated with respect to aviation security. For example, FAA does not currently require airports or airlines to use EDS. We have encouraged them to do so and we will work hard to ensure that carriers and airports that now want these systems will be able to obtain them, but to date it has been more expedient to encourage their use than to mandate their use by regulation. We need to determine whether other security technologies in development can be effectively utilized by airlines and airports. For example, there are a number of back scatter technologies, biochemical trace technologies, and portal screening technologies that are in different stages of development. Retina and finger print identification technologies are currently being tested in the operational environment. The Rapid Response Team established by Secretary Mineta in response to the events of September 11 recently recommended that we should move to a greater use of positive identification technologies. We are considering this recommendation and would like to work with industry to see whether and how all of these efforts can be incorporated into airline and airport operations to improve aviation security.
Just to make sure that we are not missing anything that is out there, FAA issued an announcement that appears on our web site requesting information about any product or technology that could be helpful in improving aviation security. As you can imagine, this requires sorting through a great deal of information. So, while there does not appear to be a single technology that addresses all of our security concerns, we are committed to working through the various options available to us.
The Secretary of Transportation and I are doing everything in our power to bring the nations air transportation system back into full operation with the highest levels of safety possible. Because civil aviation exists in a dynamic environment, the FAA must develop a security system that optimizes the strengths of a number of different technologies. This system must be responsive to the means of attack and must be able to anticipate future risk to the civil aviation environment. It is clear that through constant vigilance, the application of new technologies and procedures, and with the help of its national and international partners, that the FAA will succeed in its civil aviation security mission. In a democracy, there is always a balance between freedom and security. Our transportation systems, reflecting the value of our society, have always operated in an open and accessible manner, and we are working hard to ensure that they will do so again.
This concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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