Enhances Security in the Non-Secure Soft Target Areas of Airports
Washington, D.C. - The Senate today passed an amendment introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and several of his colleagues to strengthen U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure "soft" target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas.
The proposal, which comes after recent terror attacks in Europe, also updates federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increase the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing dogs in non-secure areas in airports.
"Our first duty is to ensure the security of the American people," Bennet said. "This amendment makes Homeland Security resources available to enhance security of soft targets at our airports, such as ticket counters and security lines. With millions of travelers passing through Colorado's airports every year, this proposal ensures our law enforcement and security agencies can put these security measures in place."
Denver International Airport (DIA) is currently working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to revamp the airport's security operations, to improve efficiency and enhance security. The airport is proposing modifications to modernize the screening process and ultimately reduce the time spent waiting in the security line. This amendment would allow existing federal grants to be used for projects such as DIA's.
"The recent terrorist attack at the Brussels airport was a sobering reminder of the threats we face," said Kim Day, CEO of Denver International Airport. "As the nation's fifth busiest airport, DIA continually works to improve security screening and enhance airport safety. This amendment will bolster our existing security operations and help us to move forward with plans to modernize and improve our screening operations."
Specifically, the amendment that the full Senate passed today in the FAA reauthorization will:
1. Expand and enhance visible deterrents (VIPR teams)
The measure doubles the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from 30 to 60 and add their operations to non-sterile areas of an airport, such as outside of a check point, to enhance "soft target" security. These VIPR teams promote confidence in and protect the nation's transportation systems through targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement capabilities at transit hubs, including airports and subways, and National Special Security Events (NSSEs). TSA works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy these teams based on threat levels and other security priorities. VIPR Teams consist of a variety of operational assets that include Law Enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel. They are recognizable to the American public because the teams often include bomb-sniffing canines. TSA VIPR deployments are coordinated with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and industry security partners throughout the United States.
2. Provide new funding for law enforcement training active shooter incidents
The measure will create a new eligible use under SHSGP/UASI funding for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents at public locations, including airports, mass transit systems and other "soft target" areas. Currently, 25 percent of Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program funds are used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities. However, there is no explicit authorization for those funds to be used for training exercises for active shooter incidents events at public locations.
3. Strengthen airport and mass transit security in non-secure areas
The measure authorizes and makes explicit that State Homeland security funding grants (SHSGP / UASI) can be used for airport and surface transportation security in non-secure "soft" areas.