September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Jane F. Gravey - The New World of Aviation Security; January 22, 2002

Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Jane F. Garvey
Federal Aviation Administration
The New World of Aviation Security
Aero Club of Washington
Washington, DC
January 22, 2002

It’s a pleasure to be here representing the men and women of the FAA — many of whom have worked almost nonstop since September 11. I especially appreciate so many of you being here — I know this is an extraordinarily busy and hectic time for each of you.

It is a far different world from the last time I spoke to the Aero Club — certainly a more dangerous world. On September 10, many Americans did not know just how dangerous. We were all harshly awakened to this reality the morning of September 11 — just as Americans awakened to war 60 years ago.

In a recent speech, President Bush compared the September 11 terrorist attacks with Pearl Harbor. He said, “September the 11th 2001…set another dividing line in our lives and in the life of our nation.” Indeed it has. And that is what I’d like to talk about today … the September 11 dividing line and what government — the Department of Transportation, the FAA, and the new Transportation Security Administration — is doing so aircraft are never again used as tools of terror.

September 11 was a massive attack on our country. It was also a massive education. As Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism chief said, “Democracies don’t prepare well for things that have never happened before.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson of September 11 is the terrorist threat is just as real here at home as it is for our embassies in East Africa or for a naval destroyer in Yemen.

For all of us in aviation, Al Qaeda demonstrated beyond a doubt that civil aircraft — what we in this room know to be tools of commerce, instruments of unity — can also be agents of enormous damage — to our citizens, to our economy, to our way of life.

And it makes civil aviation an even more inviting target.

Al Qaeda brutally reminded us control of our borders is an absolute necessity. And if there is not good intelligence — shared intelligence — and law enforcement — then aviation’s defenses must be even more aggressive, flexible, and impenetrable.

Just as Pearl Harbor was the dividing line for an isolationist nation, September 11 was a dividing line for a free and open society — that may have valued convenience more than security.

Aviation has long been a target — for criminals, the mentally deranged, and, more recently, terrorists. It was a target 47 years ago when John Graham rigged 25 sticks of dynamite to a timer, put it in a suitcase, and blew up a United DC-6 over Colorado.

Aviation was a target in the 1960’s when hijackers took over commercial flights and diverted one after another to Cuba. The government and industry responded and developed countermeasures. The idea: stop the bad guys before they got on the plane. Steps included laws with tougher penalties, efforts to close safe havens, and limited use of metal detectors in certain airports. Two extremely violent hijackings in 1972 led to universal screening of passengers and carry-on items in 1973.

From the beginning, air carriers had the primary responsibility for screening passengers and baggage. Airports were responsible for keeping a secure ground environment and for providing law enforcement support. Government’s role — the FAA’s role — was regulatory.

Over the next decade, more improvements were made to passenger and baggage screening technology and procedures. Technologies were introduced and the use of dog teams was expanded. The terrorist group that hijacked a TWA jet bound for Chicago in 1976 used simulated weapons — they didn’t take the chance on getting real weapons through the screening point.

TWA flight 847 in 1985 — and the death of navy diver Robert Stethem — was the first in a series of horrific terrorist attacks that drew the nation’s attention to the greater threat overseas to U.S. flag carriers. We added staff overseas to work with American carriers and foreign airports, emphasized crew training, and added Federal Air Marshals to international flights.

Pan Am 103 in December 1988 stimulated the most significant changes in aviation security since the early 1970s. The Aviation Security Act of 1990 gave FAA additional responsibility for research, directed the use of explosives detection systems, heightened emphasis on intelligence and threat assessment, and elevated the stature of aviation security within the FAA. More emphasis would follow in 1996 with TWA 800 and the Gore Commission recommendations.

Over the years, the U.S. approach to aviation security had its successes. Preventive measures stemmed the domestic hijacking epidemic. Although there were later waves of air piracy, domestic hijackings never again reached the worst pre-1973 levels. It had been more than 10 years since the last such crime before September 11. At the same time, there were more hijackings overseas — nearly 200 over the past ten years.

Perhaps the greatest aviation security success was thwarting Ramzi Yousef’s 1995 plot to bomb as many as 12 U.S. jetliners nearly simultaneously. Until September 11, this plot was the most spectacular aviation attack ever planned. And it had all been planned for execution outside the United States. We could not imagine then, nor did our intelligence predict, such a horror originating here.

A frustration in aviation security, as in safety, is measuring success — since success is the absence of failure. There is no way to know how many incidents, how many accidents, your efforts prevent. The successes are usually unseen. The failures are always public and tragic.

Yet, when you take the long view of aviation security you can see that at the same time we implemented more counter-measures, the bad guys became more sophisticated. Now we’ve got explosives in high-top sport shoes. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker, “Airport security measures have simply chased out the amateurs and left the clever and the audacious.”

For September 11 you cannot use words like clever or audacious. They are not dark enough. September 11 was the dividing line.

On September 10, our nation’s approach to aviation security was on a relative peacetime footing. We were not a nation at war. On September 10, we were a nation bedeviled by delays, concerned about congestion, impatient to keep moving. On September 10, aviation security was responsive to the assessed threat based on information from intelligence and law enforcement agencies. On September 10, aviation security required balancing the requirements of all segments of aviation through the lengthy, mandated rulemaking process.

September 11 was the dividing line. It called for swift and decisive action. The FAA used its emergency authority. We started the morning of September 11 when controllers guided nearly 5,000 civil aircraft to land — quickly and safely. In the days and weeks following, we took a two-pronged approach to restoring the system. The first was to bring operations back incrementally — first with commercial operations, the phased-in approach at Reagan National Airport, and then moving to general aviation.

The second approach was to put in place layers of security that addressed the changing and evolving threat. The objective is straightforward — keep the terrorists away from the airport, off the aircraft, and out of the cockpit.

Each of the measures we took in those autumn days represent the initial steps in creating a multi-layered defense system. In each of the areas more needs to be done. For the first line of defense, there is greater sharing of information across key government agencies and with airlines and airports. The FAA has required airlines and airports to verify employee ID’s, to complete more comprehensive background checks, and match passengers and employees against intelligence watch lists.

At airports, I imagine each of you has experienced the stepped-up measures —reduced access points, random searches, limiting carry-ons, and last week’s requirement for checked bag screening.

For the last line of defense, the aircraft itself, preventing unauthorized access to the cockpit was a priority for Secretary Mineta. So we cut through the red tape. By early November, all the major airlines had secured cockpit doors. Also critical to securing the cockpit is an expanded Federal Air Marshal program. Under the Secretary’s leadership and with support from the Congress, we dramatically expanded the program. We’re continuing to do so.

Each of these measures addressed the immediate issues. But there is a much larger question — how do you manage aviation security in a wartime environment?

Congress provided the right leadership in creating the Transportation Security Administration. It recognized, as the Secretary said last week, “We are in a new era of transportation.” Transportation security is so critical it belongs in its own single-focus agency. The law creates a new federal security force and shifts a 30-year federal mandate — moving the responsibility for airport security checkpoints from the airlines to the federal government. The law dictates direct federal control and management — broad and bold regulatory powers with an emphasis on law enforcement. These are the necessary elements as we confront an enemy that honors no borders and knows no rules.

President Bush made an extraordinary appointment in John Magaw. He is the right man — for the right position — at the right time.

The TSA faces a number of challenges. It must be every bit as nimble and inventive in addressing vulnerabilities as terrorists are in exploiting them. As Brian Jenkins, an authority on terrorism, says, “Between the layers of security must be curtains of mystery — unannounced changes in security levels, routines, and procedures that reflect the evolving threat and deprive the would-be adversary of certainty.”

The Department and the TSA is off to a strong start. We’ve met the deadlines. Three key elements will be essential as Undersecretary Magaw and his team moves to strengthen security.

For one, the Transportation Security Administration must have top intelligence information. As Holman Jenkins pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, for security to be effective “you have to know what to deter.” TSA will need to be able to identify threats. It will need to quickly address them. It will need unprecedented coordination with intelligence communities and greater use of technology.

Two, the Transportation Security Administration needs sustained, continued support. There is no doubt that there is the initial wave of support. The political will must be maintained — by the Congress, the Administration, each of us. TSA has an ambitious schedule — a big job — with tight deadlines and major logistical challenges. This summer, for one, TSA may well be managing some phase of the start-up at more than 100 airports in order to complete all 429 by year’s end.

John Magaw is assembling a wonderful team — law enforcement experts combined with the very capable experts from within the FAA. It is a great team. I am confident they will prevail.

Three, John Magaw and his staff need the patience and understanding of the American people. Americans want to be secure. They also want to be on the go. Air travelers have been great. They’ve packed lighter, arrived at the airport earlier, and waited patiently. We need their continued patience as new procedures are implemented. There is always a learning curve. It will get better and smoother. An informed, aware American public will help make it so.

Right now the FAA is working to ensure we remain focused on — and responsive to — the continuing high level of threat to aviation while the transition to the new administration proceeds. Yet, the FAA’s role in aviation security does not end on February 17 when the Aviation and Transportation Security Act dictates the transfer of responsibility. Air traffic security, the safety and integrity of aircraft, flight crew training — these are all FAA responsibilities.

Earlier this month, we issued a rule to permanently protect cockpits to a common standard. We are now working closely with colleagues in international organizations on door standards for new aircraft. Last week, we met another deadline in the TSA legislation when we released detailed guidance for training crewmembers to deal with potential threat.

Yes, September 11, 2001 was a dividing line. We will all always remember where we were — what we were doing. For Monte Belger, the FAA management team, what we’ll remember is in the midst of the unfolding crisis, pausing in the FAA operations center to watch the electronic map of all airborne aircraft. Thousands of airplanes. Then fewer. And fewer. And then the map of the world’s largest and safest aviation system was blank.

I know we all often struggle for the best way — the right words — to describe the importance of aviation. Yes, we know aviation contributes to our economy — in the billions and trillions of dollars. Yes, we appreciate the ability to move people and products all over the globe. Quickly and safely. Yes, we know that aviation adds to our quality of life — visiting friends and family, experiencing new people and places. But nothing — nothing — spoke more powerfully or eloquently to me than aviation’s silence the afternoon of September 11. That blank screen. No civil aircraft aloft. It was as if the heart of the nation ceased to beat.

And this was the dividing line for each of us at the Federal Aviation Administration. We are united. Every one of us — employees throughout the agency — we are committed — absolutely and totally — to do our part to keep that screen full and active — to keep our citizens safe and secure. After what our countrymen suffered on September 11 we can do no less.


U.S. Government Website

September 11 Page

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