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inspectors who will do the full range of security activities. As the Secretary announced last week, we will be assigning I think a substantially increased number of inspectors to overseas locations.
Senator Ford. Well, let me ask you this question. GAO concluded that the FAA does not test or validate the effectiveness of security measures at foreign airports. Do you find this satisfactory, and what could be done to improve FAA's efforts in this area?
Mr. Belger. Well, we agree with the two recommendations in the GAO report. We have already started activities to follow up on those recommendations. We will be, in the course of our airport assessments, to the extent we can reviewing the host country's procedures for testing the screening system.
We will also be making some very specific recommendations about the training needs and requirements that we see when we conduct the airport assessments. So I think those are responsive to their two recommendations.
Senator Ford. The other recommendation was the evaluation or assessment of the results and so forth.
Mr. Belger. Yes, sir.
Senator Ford. My other colleagues will have some questions and I will have some for the Secretary in writing.
But let me ask this question. There has been—you know, there is always a reaction and a lot of suggestions, and some are very good and some are not quite so good.
There have been several suggestions that the Federal government should take over the responsibility of screening airline passengers, essentially creating a Federal security force. What are your views as it relates to this suggestion?
And are you satisfied with the current system of using contract-y ed people, some would call them low-paid, very poorly trained people, at the gates?
Secretary Skinner. Well, first of all, recognize that the security force at the gates that was initially put into place was to deter hijacking. And it has been very effective. That work force, working with X-ray equipment, with rare exception has basically prevented the rash of hijackings that we saw early on.
That work force must now be trained and to some degree upgraded to deal with a new problem, and that is the problem of terrorism. We believe that the work force should be upgraded, we believe that they should be better trained, and they should be trained for this new mission, and that to the degree the FAA can continue to help in that aspect we will do so.
At this point, we do not believe it is necessary to nationalize the security work force of every point of departure in the United States. And I might add, the complications of nationalizing that work force abroad are immense.
In some cases, the airports and the governments are taking a greater role and responsibility in that, in others they are not. So what we have really got to do is upgrade the work force. Nationalization is not necessarily the answer.
The answer is to have a better work force, and we believe working with the private sector right now is the best way to do it. But if that does not work, that is always an option.
Senator Ford. I yield now to Senator McCain for questions.
Senator Mccain. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Skinner. We certainly are seeing a lot of you.
Secretary Skinner. Too much.
Senator Mccain. It is amazing how time flies when you are having fun.
I have been asked by Senator Kasten to ask you about the TNA. The TNA devices are very state of the art and very expensive. Senator Kasten understands that no orders have been placed to date, and there is the question of who bears the cost of implementing the program.
What arrangement do you have with the producer of this equipment to ensure that we can realistically hope to deploy 100 units in the short time frame mentioned?
Secretary Skinner. Well, first of all on the funding issue, we have indicated that the funding we believe should be paid from the security tax. When it was necessary for you to step out, Senator Ford asked that question.
Number two, the FAA has placed orders for six. We have had discussions with the current manufacturer on his ability to produce more. Mr. Salazar may give us a better answer on that. And we are also in the process of getting the technology available so that others can bid on it.
And Mr. Salazar, you may want to comment on Senator McCain's question.
Mr. Salazar. Senator McCain, the production of the thermal neutron analysis system is a very high tech venture. We have been in close consultation with the manufacturer. It is one single manufacturer in the United States, I might point out.
They assure us that, given the correct incentives, they could produce as many as 100 of these units a year.
Senator Mccain. So you are confident that you can have those units deployed within the time frame that you have discussed?
Mr. Salazar. I believe, sir, that when we begin, as the Secretary has announced, certainly our efforts to require the use of explosive detection systems, that will be the clear indication, sir, that we require the quickest deployment of these systems at the busiest airports.
Secretary Skinner. And Senator, let me just add to that response. I think as big a problem as getting production of these is getting people trained and getting foreign governments ready to accept them. That is one of the major purposes of my trip to Europe next week, because we could end up having 50 or 100 units in a warehouse because the governments of X, Y, and Z country for one reason or another do not want them in there.
And they are devices that require licensing, they require licensing in this country. So it is—this is not an effort that is going to go easily. Just because we announce it does not mean it is going to happen.
We are just beginning this venture, in my opinion. It is a first step, but we are still uphill on this.
Senator Mccain. Mr. Secretary, on the institution of the socalled closed loop dissemination of security information to the airlines, who has what responsibility under the various scenarios?
In other words, who is ultimately responsible for deciding what information goes to the carriers, what response the carriers must employ?
Secretary Skinner. Maybe Mr. Salazar could answer that in precise steps.
The initial assessment is a FAA assessment. It is the disseminated to the government security entity in the country in which they are located.
Senator Mccain. Let us just focus on the United States. Secretary Skinner. There are some additional changes. Go ahead, Ray.
Mr. Salazar. I think ultimately, sir, in response to your question, it would depend on the source of the information ultimately as to the release of that information. Much of this information is very sensitive.
Secretary Skinner. No, I think his question goes to
Senator Mccain. Who decides
Secretary Skinner. Yes, who it goes to and when, and what response they are required to make.
Senator Mccain. Who decides if it is a credible piece of information and then decides what response the carrier should make?
Mr. Salazar. Within the Office of Civil Aviation Security, sir, we have a staff of professional analysts. The FAA, as I am sure you are well aware, sir, is an intelligence information user. It has no active nets or cells of that type and it relies upon the intelligence community to give us the most current information.
Our analysts then, this staff, will then assess the threat against civil aviation. It is an active, ongoing discussion in my staff, and ultimately the decision to issue a bulletin is one that is signed out by me, sir, and coordinated through the upper management of FAA.
Senator Mccain. So you, Mr. Salazar, make the decision that it is a credible threat and therefore should be disseminated?
Mr. Salazar. Well, assisted, sir, I might point out, certainly by the intelligence community.
Senator Mccain. I understand that.
Mr. Salazar. We rely heavily on their assessment.
Senator Mccain. I understand who assists you. I want to know who makes the final decision.
Secretary Skinner. Mr. Salazar, after consulting with the Administrator and, if necessary, the Secretary, makes the decision.
Senator Mccain. Okay. And do you also contemplate that you would indicate to the carriers what procedures or what steps they should take?
Mr. Salazar. Absolutely, yes, sir.
Senator Mccain. And you would expect those to be enforced?
Senator Mccain. I understand your opposition, Mr. Secretary, to the so-called hot line. But once Mr. Salazar with the advice, assistance, et cetera, of everyone, makes this decision, do you not think it would be appropriate at that time to have a hot line to disseminate Mr. Salazar's decision?
Secretary Skinner. No.
Senator Mccain. Why not?
Secretary Skinner. Because, number one, you have got to look at—you have several problems. Number one, the source of the information. The source of the information
Senator Mccain. If I may interrupt, Mr. Salazar has already decided that.
Secretary Skinner. Well, that the source of the information is credible.
Senator Mccain. Yes.
Secretary Skinner. The question is, and the most important thing is obviously, to ensure the safety of the flight.
A second consideration is also the protection of the source of the information. Senator McCain, you know, with your service in the military, the importance of intelligence and the importance of sourcing of intelligence in an ongoing basis, x
If we were to disclose to the public the sense of the information, which in many cases we would be required to do so in order to flush out the threat, so to speak, that source of information would dry up.
Number two, the best way to deal with the situation is not to cancel every flight on every threat or perceived threat, but to deal with that threat by deterring that effort by doing the necessary work through the airline, with the airline, and with the security people in the country that is involved to make sure that does not occur, and hopefully to apprehend the culprits.
You know, one of the problems is we have not apprehended terrorists to the degree necessary and therefore they continue to do their work.
And if we announced that British Airways Flight 4 is the subject of a threat, then that threat—there is nothing magic about British Airways Flight 3 or 4. They can move to Air France Flight 3 or 4, and the public announcement of that information is just going to move them, give them notice that we know, have them question how we know, and then have them move the threat to a new airline on short notice, where we will not have the security information necessary to deter it.
So there is no compelling reason at that stage. And we believe that you can still communicate a threat assessment in a security bulletin to selected security people at an airline and selected security and enforcement people in a country, and still not have the information become public, thus jeopardizing the source and creating chaos with the airlines.
Senator Mccain. How do we reconcile that position, which I certainly understand, how do we reconcile that position with the public's right to know, the person or persons who are going to get on that airliner?
Secretary Skinner. Well, it is a balancing that has to go on, and when it comes to a point in time where it is so severe then the public will know.
But to let them know of some 800 threats a year we receive—I will give you an example of one. I will just couch ii. An event happened last week. Immediately a phone call came in claiming responsibility for this event, that turned out to be totally false.
Now, that was just a crank. That crank, if we would allow cranks' information to be disseminated to the public, we would, number one, accomplish a complete disruption of air traffic; number two, we would lose the ability to apprehend them.
And more importantly, people would begin to take these threats that turn out to be unfounded for granted, and then when a serious one comes in they would ignore it, because they have received—you know, it is the "boy that called wolf syndrome.
So you have got to balance it. It is one of the hardest, in my opinion, jobs in government, because you are doing, you are trying to do your best job in assessing it under all these parameters. There is no easy answer to that.
And you have just got to make sure that the source of the information, the evaluation of the information, is all as solid as it can be, so that when you make your threat assessment, issue your security bulletin, and cancel the flight or issue a travel advisory, which the State Department would do, you have done so with the best of information.
Senator Mccain. I understand, Mr. Secretary, and I appreciate your argument. I believe that the America people have to be satisfied that they will be informed as well in the event of a credible threat before they get on board that airplane.
And I am not sure we have formulated a clear enough policy to make sure they have that assurance at this time. And I recognize your well-made point that there is a very careful balancing act here.
At the same time, we certainly do not want a situation to arise where there is a credible threat to the safety of those people and they are not informed that that credible threat exists.
Secretary Skinner. Well, I think we all understand the problem. I think we are going to have an honest disagreement to some degree. And I will tell you, I do not believe this is something you can legislate.
Senator Mccain. I agree with that.
Secretary Skinner. I do believe it requires a constant assessment. And to mandate standards that are going to be followed, in many cases they are standards we are going to follow anyway. But if you go too far, you require decisions to be made as a matter of law that are not in the best interest, not only of the traveling public, but of the other areas as well.
Senator Mccain. Thank you, and I have several other questions, but I know that the time of the committee is limited.
I would seize this opportunity, if I might, to employ an unfair tactic that committees do from time to time, and that is ask you a very brief question on an unrelated issue. And that is, in light of what seems to be failed negotiations as far as Eastern Airlines is concerned, is concerned that we will see a continued shrinkage of the number of major airlines in this country and therefore a return to de facto reregulation?
And is there anything that anybody can do about this?
Secretary Skinner. Let me say that, yes, I am concerned.
Number two, there is no one in this room that is any more disappointed than I am that those negotiations seem to have broken off at this point. I spoke with Mr. Ueberroth earlier in the week and indicated to him that he, consistent with the law, would have the full support of the FAA and the Department of Transportation on