The big issue this year continues to be the insider threat / employee security. Legislative staffers visited with industry leadership at the Summit about the various laws attempting to make their way through the House or the Senate, directed at improving airport security. A significant piece of legislation to keep an eye on is H.R.3102 – Airport Access Control Security Improvement Act of 2015. The key points of the act would:
●Establish a risk-based, intelligence driven model for the screening of airport employees;
●Review the 28 disqualifying offenses (to see if they need to change);
●Use E-Verify to determine work eligibility;
●Establish a program for the anonymous reporting violations of security (why not, we already have several, what’s one more);
●Establish a national database of employees who have had their airport access ID revoked;
●Require airports to transmit biometric fingerprint data to the Office of Biometric Identity Management’s Automated Biometrics Identification System for vetting (this would check a person’s biometrics against a watch list of known or suspected terrorists, criminals and immigration violators);
●Increase access control requirements to include ID card + PIN entry, or ID card + biometric technology.
Comment: I agree with many components of the law but I worry that certain congressional leaders, such as Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla) continue to call for 100% employee screening, but may not be educated on how the system works, and what security improvements are already in use. I appreciate Senator Nelson’s focus on aviation security and his desire to see it improved, but while 100% employee screening may be viable at certain airports, one size does not fit all. Additionally, if we can achieve the same level of security through the use of employee inspections, versus 100% employee screening, then why spend the extra money? The risk-based model is the way to go, not a blanket security requirement.
In April, Nelson asked FAA Administrator Huerta about funding for airports for security enhancements, the Administrator pointed at the funding available through the Airport Improvement Program. Nelson’s response (as seen on his website – hyperlink above), “Well, may I suggest for the remaining 448 airports in this country that they need to [apply for that funding].
I wish it was that simple. AIP is not a vault of money that’s just sitting around ready for the taking. Nearly every dollar is destined for a project on some airports capital improvement plan. The problem with using AIP money is that if you want to buy a perimeter fence or some other security technology, then something on your CIP is coming off. So much for this years’ runway overlay or rehab. Plus, there is a complex funding formula that the FAA uses with the highest priority going to those projects in line with the FAA’s goals, not the TSA’s. Some of this legislation could amount to more unfunded mandates. Perhaps there needs to be another funding stream established for airport security related projects, other than AIP. Maybe a TSA form of an AIP budget.
Passenger Facility Charge money may be another source, but the airlines have continued to keep the PFC’s at the same level for about 15 years now, so don’t expect relief to come from there – maybe the airlines could share some of their bag fee collections to fund some security improvements (I’ll pause for laughter at this point).
So what can we do? You can ensure you are engaged with your local lawmakers and are educating them on how the system works – and you are accurate in your statistics.