- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

Two top Bush administration officials yesterday joined a growing chorus of voices urging that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport be reopened.
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said President Bush wants to reopen Reagan, the only commercial airport still closed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he's hopeful security measures can be implemented soon to reopen the airport. Secret Service and other security agency officials want to keep the airport closed.
Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said Reagan can be safely opened. "National Airport should be opened at the earliest possible time," Capt. Woerth said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said keeping the airport closed runs counter to the Bush administration's efforts to get the public flying again. "A closed National Airport," Mrs. Norton said, "sends a strong message to the flying public that it's not safe to fly."
Reagan Airport has remained closed because of its proximity to key government buildings, including the White House, Capitol and Pentagon. Local government officials in Virginia and the District say the closure has devastated the local economy. They want the airport reopened quickly.
Because it is only minutes from downtown Washington, it offers easy access for tourists and is the airport of choice for members of Congress who often fly home on weekends. Senior government officials who fly in Air Force planes usually fly from Andrews Air Force Base, 15 miles down the Potomac River.
Several congressmen have said they expected the White House to announce this week that the airport would reopen. But Mr. Card, who is scheduled to meet today with Gov. James S. Gilmore III of Virginia and the state's congressional delegation, said there was no timetable for a decision. "I'm optimistic that we can find the right balance between security and economic opportunity that is necessary through the opening of Ronald Reagan Airport," Mr. Card said on "Fox News Sunday." "I'm confident that we can address the challenge and that Ronald Reagan Airport will be open. The question is how quickly and under what circumstances."
Mr. Rumsfeld said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that security on the ground has to be tightened because there is little time to act once a plane is in the air.
"It is a relatively minor course correction to wind up crashing into one of those buildings," Mr. Rumsfeld said, referring to the White House, Capitol and Pentagon. "I think the way to deal with that is by proper training of people on the ground protection of aircraft, air marshals."
Others have noted that the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon flew from Dulles International Airport, not Reagan National. Dulles has reopened.
"I personally am hopeful that Washington National will be opened," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I think that it would be a shame if we had to alter our behavior. When we do that to any great extent, the terrorists win."

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