The Senate Commerce Committee will review the status of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to address the 9/11 Commission’s air security recommendations and will consider options for strengthening the nation’s aviation security system.
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorOur nation has taken many important steps that have strengthened the security of our transportation system over the past five years. This is particularly true of the domestic aviation industry. Both the government and private sectors have made a tremendous investment to develop a layered security regime in which the vast majority of the traveling public has confidence.In fact, more Americans flew last year than any other year in the history of commercial aviation, and as potential threats arise, the security system has proven to be flexible enough to keep passengers flowing while remaining responsive to security challenges.Despite our efforts to ensure the security of the aviation system in the United States, more needs to be done to address ongoing threats. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission provided a valuable public service by making recommendations on how to ensure against a repeat of the events of September 11, 2001. They identified several key shortcomings in our aviation security system, including the process for cargo and baggage screening, checkpoint screening for explosives and passenger prescreening. Each of these weaknesses, if unaddressed, offers an opportunity for our enemies to launch a potentially devastating attack.The development of an advanced passenger prescreening system, a vital component of our security system, has been delayed for several years. That is too long.The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to move forward with this system, to strengthen aviation security while protecting the civil rights of all Americans. The installation of integrated or "in-line" Explosive Detection Systems (EDS) will not be completed for more than a decade if deployment continues at its current pace. Again, this is too long given the economic and operational benefits this system provides. We must speed up this process.In addition, the TSA must address the security of all cargo going on passenger aircraft. The TSA must work with Congress to make certain extensive screening becomes a reality in the near term.This summer’s foiled plot to target U.S. and British air carriers with liquid explosives has shown both the successes of our overall security efforts, as well as our remaining weaknesses. Intelligence was vital in stopping that attack at the planning stages, but we can only guess how the security regime would have responded if the plot had been put in motion. It was a stark reminder of the continual efforts of our enemies, and the continual resolve we must have to secure our citizens and our economy against their efforts.It is critical that this Committee work with the Administration, the public, and the aviation industry to improve the existing system of security and fix any remaining problems. We must both ensure the integrity of our security system, and keep the country's vital economic engine functioning efficiently.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Edmund HawleyAssistant Secretary for Homeland SecurityTransportation Security Administration