September 20, 2006 - DEMS URGE FULL FUNDING FOR 100% LUGGAGE SCREENING IN HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPS BILL IN LIGHT OF REPORT CITING SERIOUS CONCERNS TO KEEP UP WITH MORE CHECKED BAGS

Washington, DCToday, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, urged the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration to fully fund luggage screening measures in the upcoming Homeland Security Appropriations bill.  In light of a report by aviation security professionals, released to USA Today, there are serious concerns that with more passengers checking baggage, the current equipment and staffing levels are not sufficient to continue 100% screening of checked baggage on passenger airplanes.  The Homeland Security spending bill will be reported out of a House and Senate conference committee shortly, and does not include enough funding to address concerns raised in this new report.   Reps. Markey, DeFazio, and Thompson, who sit on the Homeland Security or Transportation Committees, have been vocal critics of under funding of aviation security priorities.

 

Rep. Markey said, “Today’s report is a stinging critique of the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress, who have failed to close security gaps that could enable terrorists to slip by an airport checkpoint with bombs designed to bring down passenger planes.  Republicans are nickel-and-diming homeland security while writing a blank check for the War in Iraq.”

Rep. Thompson stated, “The Working Group recommends federal appropriations of at least $435 million for purchase and installation of in-line EDS, escalating annually.  Yet, the appropriations bill that will likely come to the floor next week only provides about $150 million.  That won’t even get us to the 5 yard line. 

 Rep. DeFazio said, “Recent events in Britain prove that terrorists still consider aviation a prime target. Unfortunately, when it comes to terror attacks, the Department of Homeland Security seems to reflect the tombstone mentality, waiting until after a successful attack to take preventative measures. We've had clear indications of the threats we face. It's past time that the administration and the Republican Congress provide the funding necessary for bomb-detecting equipment at every airport in the country.”

 The report was developed by experts from air carriers, airport operators, the federal government and contractors – it is a non-partisan report that was authorized by the 9/11 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. It recommends that Congress should “continue federal appropriations of at least $435 million for purchase and installation of Explosive Detection Systems, escalating annually.”  According to the report “without adequate capital investment, screener staffing, levels would have to increase significantly to maintain 100% electronic screening .”  However, Republicans have placed a cap on the number of airport screeners, creating security challenges at our airports because the current explosive detection systems are not easily modified to accommodate increased airline passenger traffic. 

In its final report card, the 9/11 Commission also gave the federal government’s checked bag screening capabilities a “D” and directed that “The TSA should expedite the installation of advanced (in-line) baggage screening equipment.”

Markey concluded, “We currently have the worst of both worlds:  Republicans refuse to invest the needed funds in explosive detection equipment while they also cap the number of screeners regardless of security needs.  Today’s report  should be a wake-up call for the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress – When you continue to ignore glaring loopholes such as flawed checkpoint screening equipment at airports, your policies produce homeland INSECURITY, rather than the real security that Americans deserve.”

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September 14, 2006

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