to Congress Supporting Aviation Security Bill
October 25, 2001
Dear Mr. Speaker:
The quickest, most effective way to increase aviation security is to pass H.R.
3150, the Secure Transportation for America Act. Time is of the essence. I urge
your support for H.R. 3150.
Making American air travel as safe and secure as possible is one of our Nation's
top priorities. Last month, I proposed dramatic changes to our aviation security
system: full Federal control of airport security and screening services; major
expansion of the Federal Air Marshal program; and substantial new funding for
aircraft security modifications. H.R. 3150 would accomplish these important
initiatives and improve security quickly and effectively.
Both my proposal and H.R. 3150 give the Federal Government immediate and comprehensive
control of aviation security. A new Transportation Security Agency, housed at
the Department of Transportation, will hire Federal employees to supervise,
manage, and train all passenger and baggage screeners. The new Security Agency
would also establish and enforce new qualification standards for screeners,
perform background checks on all screeners and other persons with access to
secure areas at airports, and provide a uniformed Federal law enforcement presence
at commercial airports.
Significantly, H.R. 3150 leaves the Federal Government the flexibility to build
the best workforce to perform the actual screening function -- another key element
of my proposal. This model of Federal control plus flexibility mirrors the well-regarded
airline security systems in place in many European countries, which involve
public/private partnerships. Many adopted this model of strong government oversight
over high-quality private security companies after finding other models of airline
security to be less effective.
Other legislative proposals would mandate that all passenger and baggage screeners
must be Federal workers in all circumstances. Such an inflexible, one-size-fits-all
requirement fails to permit security tailored to the very different circumstances
that exist at airports across the country. I am pleased that Chairman Young
and the co-sponsors of H.R. 3150 have chosen not to limit the Administration's
options in choosing the strongest possible means to protect Americans who travel
by air. Giving the Government the flexibility to use private contractors will
facilitate transition to the new system, promote better screening services through
competition, and ensure that security managers can move swiftly to discipline
or remove employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards.
The American people deserve a quick and smooth transition to a better aviation
security system. I urge the House to pass H.R. 3150 as soon as possible; and
my Administration looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress on any
refinements that may be necessary to ensure that the Nation's aviation security
needs are addressed in the most effective manner possible.