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Time passes. A different gap is exploited, another tragedy, more lives lost. Again, Government and industry try to sort out the problem, find where the hole was, and move to plug it. Despite recent actions to enhance security, the traveling public continues to have the sense that there continue to be holes in the safety net and that terrorists are merely waiting to exploit them. The purpose of our hearing is not to identify the holes and suggest fixes, but rather its purpose is to inquire into the broad systemic questions of security on the ground and in the air. Do Government and industry need to change any of our assumptions about how we balance convenience and security? Are Government and industry devoting enough resources of people and money to assure security? Our security system has been built incrementally and through adjustments. Do we need to make a fundamental systematic examination of security so that we are not simply once again fighting the last war? Since the summer of 1985, there have been four aircraft bombings, an average of more than one a year. Are all agencies of all governments and all airline companies doing everything necessary and prudent and responsible to assure that the record improves in the next three to four years? Today we have a relatively long list of expert witnesses who we hope will be able to provide some answers to these and other questions. We also have a long list of Members participating in the hearing. So I will insist on adhering to the 5-minute rule so that we can move quickly through the witnesses and assure that all Members' questions will be adequately answered. The Secretary of Transportation, Sam Skinner, has moved decisively on the issue of terrorism during his brief tenure in office, and I commend him for those efforts. I am impressed the way he has acted and his sincerity of purpose and willingness to command all the resources of Government and industry toward this purpose. The Secretary has advised us that he has appointed a task force to analyze the issue of security notifications to airlines and how such process is handled. There may be some questions Members want to ask today about that issue. I would ask them to withhold such questions. We will have an Executive Session following today's open testimony at which some of those matters may be responded to, but later, within a month I expect, we will receive the full report of that task force. Out of respect for sensitive issues, Government witnesses may wish to ask that full response be given in Executive Session, and we will take such testimony at that time. This is a vitally important hearing. It will be not just one hearing; it will be followed up by a series of continuing inquiries and actions by the committee in cooperation with the responsible Government agencies, foreign governments, and our airline companies. I want to welcome all the witnesses today, and I particularly want to welcome our Members and commend them on a very large turnout here for this hearing. It now gives me great pleasure to recognize the ranking Republican, a gentleman who has devoted so much of his career in Congress to issues involving aviation and with such effectiveness, Mr. Molinari.
Mr. MoLINARI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As we open the hearing today, I want first and foremost to express my heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, many of whom we have with us or watching today. As grieved and angry as the Nation is over this tragedy, we know no one can possibly feel the pain as personally as you have, nor could anyone possibly imagine the anger you feel at this vile act of terrorism that has taken your innocent loved ones from you. I might add that three of the individuals killed in that flight come from my district and I have talked to their families, and the horror and anguish they're going through is something that is very painful. All of us may wish for a method of swift and sure retribution for this act and for guarantees for the future, but the nature of terrorism today leaves us with no guarantees. What we must do instead and out of deference to you is to review what measures have been taken by our Government to protect American travelers and determine what now remains to be done. We recognize that when a terrorist placed a bomb in a Pan Am airliner, it was not an attack on Pan Am Airlines; it was an attack on the U.S. airline industry. It was an attack on innocent U.S. citizens, to send a message to the U.S. Government—this is not just an aviation issue; it is a global and very complex issue which we must address as a Government more effectively. I am particularly looking forward to hearing today about the important new technology being developed for airport security. It is abundantly clear that we must have state-of-the-art technology out in the field as soon as possible and quickly deal with the controversy over who will pay. / It is also likely that there are additional procedures that can be implemented to enhance aircraft and airport security. The administration is to be commended for swift action to tighten security in the aftermath of Pan Am 103. I’m sure that our witnesses will have other measures to suggest today to further improve the system. I might add a personal observation. With deregulation and the problems that some of the carriers have had over the past few years in terms of the balance sheets, what we've witnessed is in some cases a disassembling of the carriers' security division; in other cases they have reduced the numbers of those employed within the security division of those carriers to the point where they have but one or two left. I think what happened is that they perceived the threat to be lessened. We had some very good people, and our Investigation Oversight Committee was very impressed by what was in place several years ago. We find that's no longer in place today. The security at most of our airports rests with the carriers themselves. I hope that the witnesses that are coming before us today will address that issue and enlighten us as to why these steps were taken, why they cut back on their security divisions, why we don’t have the same degree of protection today that we had by the carriers several years ago when, in fact, it would appear to us that we need greater protection today, greater surveillance by the carriers themselves. Mr. Chairman, I, together with you, look forward to the hearing today, and I hope that some of those very important questions will be answered and some guidance be given to the committee so that perhaps we may legislatively move to some solutions. Thank you very much. Mr. OBERSTAR. I thank the gentleman for that very sensitive statement and responsiveness to the concerns of the families of the victims of Pan Am 103. The Chair notes the presence of a quorum and would recognize the gentleman from New York for a motion. Mr. MoLINARI. Mr. Chairman, pursuant to Rule 2(f) of the committee rules, I move that upon conclusion of the scheduled open hearing, the subcommittee proceed with a hearing closed to the public on the grounds that disclosure of the testimony and other evidence to be presented at that portion of the hearing might endanger the national security. Mr. OBERSTAR. Any questions about the motion? [No response.] All those in favor say aye. [Chorus of ayes.] Opposed, no? [No response.] The motion is carried. The committee will meet again in Executive Session on the conclusion of the public testimony. Ordinarily the Chair would like to take opening statements from Members, but in view of the large number of witnesses and the large number of Members, we would, by unanimous consent, accept other statements for the record and at this point proceed to our first witnesses. [The statements of Messrs. Mineta, Towns, Payne, and Lightfoot follow:]
OPENING STATEMENT OF NorMAN Y. MINETA, MEMBER OF CONGRESS
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I commend you for your foresight in scheduling this hearing. The issue of security in the aviation industry naturally draws the greatest attention when it fails. Yet security must always be in the forefront of our concerns. The role of government is to be active, not reactive, in protecting the lives of travelers and of the dedicated employees in the industry. I am eager to hear from our witnesses today about improvements which can be made in our aviation security network. And what lessons have been learned from the tragedy, means have been found to greatly decrease the change that such an act of terrorism could be successful in the future. The Pan Am-Lockerbie tragedy is painful enough to bear. It would be more painful if we could not at least hope to lessen the chance of a recurrence. I do not mean to downplay the difficulty of dealing with terrorists who lack respect for law or human life. But several efforts showing promise to deal with this form of terrorism have been batted around for quite a while without any sign of implementation. For example, much work has been done on improved explosion detection devices, and these devices have a proven track record. Yet their implementation has been delayed by turf battles. The FAA, the airlines and the airports have argued over who will shoulder the burden of paying for these devices. In the meantime, travelers go unportected. I hope today's testimony includes a timetable and specific information from the FAA about how and when these decisions will be made. I am also eager to hear more about Secretary Skinner's proposal to work toward more stringent security standards in foreign airports. We must respect the sovereignty of other nations, but we also have a responsibility to protect U.S. travelers as well. Surely a balance between these two concerns can be struck which provides for adequate security for air travelers. Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership on this important issue.
Today, Mr. Chairman, we have the sad task of determining where we went wrong on December 21, 1988. In providing security for the passengers on Pan Am Flight 103, somewhere, somehow, the necessary precautions were overlooked. As a result, 270 people died. .
While we are all anxious that this incident should never be repeated, we must not be to quick to rush to judgment about what the appropriate solutions are to addressing aviation security concerns. One issue that we should be clear on, however, is that improved security measures will not be cheap. We can not expect our airlines and/or airports to institute new security improvements with little or no support from the Federal government. This Committee has repeatedly urged that the Airport Trust Fund be used for its intended purpose: improving the nation's airports. There is certainly no better or more urgent need than improved security for our commercial aviation system.
I would that this hearing will generate the kind of evidence and support we need to release the Airport Trust Fund monies so that our aviation security needs can be met without further delay.
CONGRESSMAN LEwis F. PAYNE, JR.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for calling this hearing. We are a society of air travellers, and air safety is a matter of great concern to us. Although safety measures have improved over the years, terrorists still find the weak link in our system. We must constantly strive to stay one step ahead in our security measures in an effort to protect the flying public. Although it is not realistic that we will ever be 100% terrorist-proof, I believe that we should explore all possible methods to get as close to that goal as possible.
I want to thank the family and friends of those who were on Pan Am Flight 103 for coming here today. You have my deepest sympathy, and please be assured that this Subcommittee wants to do all possible to ensure that a similar group need not ever come before us again.
I look forward to hearing the testimony today on the problems we face, and how we might speedily and effectively address them.
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN JIM LIGHTFOOT
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased we are considering the issue of airpline safety today. All of us agree we have a problem on our hands. I’d also like to thank our witnesses for agreeing to speak publicly today on this sensitive subject.
I'd like to make the point, however, that any action Congress takes on this issue must be carefully weighed and the consequences considered. Too frequently, the federal government imposes mandates on the private sector without providing any financial resources with which to meet those mandates. I’m sure most of us can think of examples of such unfunded mandates. One area where such mandates commonly appear comes under the heading of environmtal law.
Once again, I welcome our witnesses and thank them for sharing their insight on this security problem.
Mr. OBERSTAR. The Chair will now recognize the gentleman from Oklahoma, Mr. McCurdy for his statement and then the gentleman from New York, NY. McNulty. Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana was also to appear at this time, but has been detained because of other committee business. He will be here later.
We thank you for being here with us.
TESTIMONY OF HON. DAVE McCURDY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM OKLAHOMA, AND HON. MICHAEL R. McNULTY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM NEW YORK
Mr. McCURDY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to testify on the Airport Security Technology and Research Act of 1989 which I am introducing today along with my colleagues, Tom Lewis from Florida and Mr. Dan Glickman from Kansas. We're witnessing an attack by international terrorists on innocent victims, commercial aviation, and the traveling public—terrorist attack with no warning and no rationale. Their weapon of choice of pliable, odorless substance which is twice as powerful as TNT and is virtually invisible to conventional security devices. It can be hidden in a briefcase or a small cassette recorder, as we have recently seen. Mr. Chairman, I might just take a moment to say to some of my colleagues here, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I once went to one of our intelligence agencies to review with them some of the security regarding terrorist devices and explosives, and we had a meeting for a couple of hours. At the end of the meeting one of the gentlemen said, “Oh, by the way, let me show you how dangerous these devices are and how difficult they are to detect.” He took the briefcase that he had laid beside me and had been sitting there for two hours and he opened the briefcase. Inside the briefcase, he pulled out the liner and it was lined with plastic explosives, or simulated plastic explosives. He pulled out a liquor bottle and showed how it, too, was filled with explosives. He had taken that briefcase into this very secure building undetected. We were reminded also of the deadly nature of plastic explosives like SEMTEX when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland last December. A total of 270 people died that day. Unfortunately, we cannot change the tragedy of the Lockerbie incident. We can, however, fight back against the use of plastic explosives. Thermal Neutron Activation is a mature technology that has been proven to have 95 percent accuracy in detecting plastic explosives. During the recent hearing held by the Committee on Science Space and Technology, chaired by my successor subcommittee chairman Tim Valentine, on which I serve, Allan McArtor stated, with respect to TNA, “We do not see any technical hurdles. However, we would like to see some improved performance capabilities with respect to through-put,” through-put being the time it takes to go through the devices. The Federal Aviation Administration has the consolidated lab and field tests on TNA and other sister technologies, but, to date, has not done enough to see that this equipment be expeditiously installed in major airports throughout the United States. As you know, the FAA has planned to deploy six TNA devices at the high-risk airports within the next year, and I commend them on this effort. However, I believe that the effort needs to be accelerated and a clear agenda set for the installation of explosives detection equipment in all major airports.