Senate Adds Bipartisan Airport Security Enhancements to FAA Legislation

Provisions responding to ISIS threat strengthens passenger-friendly bill

April 7, 2016

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate today, voted 85-10 to bolster airport security for passengers by adding an amendment to pending Senate legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration through the end of fiscal year 2017. The amendment, offered by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Aviation subcommittee leaders Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) includes provisions from bipartisan proposals approved by the Commerce Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Events around the world and security lapses at U.S. airports necessitate new protections for the traveling public,” said Thune. “Keeping Americans safe from future attacks is a top priority in this Senate.  In addition to defeating ISIS abroad and controlling our borders, we must enact effective measures to secure our homeland. The security measures now included in the FAA bill are a strong step toward that goal.”

“Recent terror attacks, along with gun-running and drug-smuggling incidents, are all examples of why much more needs to be done to reduce insider threats to our aviation system,” said Nelson.  “If an airport or airline employee can easily smuggle drugs or guns onto a plane, just imagine what a terrorist might do.”

Highlights of the Thune/Nelson/Ayotte/Cantwell amendment:

Addressing the “inside threat” of terrorism – Many experts believe an ISIS attack on a Russian flight leaving Egypt had help from an aviation employee. The amendment includes S. 2361, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight, which enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas. It also expands the use of random and physical inspections of airport employees in secure areas and requires a review of perimeter security. Click here for more information about provisions included in the amendment from S. 2361, which was previously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Safeguarding passengers in non-secure airport areas – The March 22 ISIS attack on the Brussels airport underscored how concentrations of passengers in areas of airports accessible without screening can be a target for terrorists. The amendment includes H.R. 2843, the TSA PreCheck Enhancement Act, which seeks to reduce crowds waiting for security screening by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints quickly. Provisions require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to seek private sector partners for marketing the program and processing applications for public enrollment while also ensuring that PreCheck screening lanes are open during high-volume travel times. Both the Senate Commerce Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2843.

Securing international flights bound for the U.S. – Some international airports abroad operating non-stop flights to U.S. airports lack the security equipment and expertise of U.S. and other state-of-the-art airports. Taking provisions from H.R. 4698, legislation previously approved by the House Homeland Security Committee, this amendment authorizes TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S., permits increased cooperation between U.S. officials and partner nations to protect routes flown by Americans, and requires a new assessment of foreign cargo security programs.  

The full text of the Thune/Nelson/Ayotte/Cantwell amendment is available here.

Heinrich amendment:

Senators also agreed to approve a separate amendment offered by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and ten other Senators. The amendment expands the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams to enhance the security presences in pre-screening airport areas and other transportation facilities, increases preparedness for active shooter incidents, and makes homeland security grant funding for states available for use in non-secure areas of  airports and surface transportation facilities.

For more information about S. 2658, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016 visit