- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

House Republicans introduced a bill yesterday that tries to leave airport screening to private security firms rather than creating a new federal work force.
The bill faces a tough battle from Senate and House Democrats, who favor federalizing the nation's 28,000 screeners and other aviation security personnel.
The Senate unanimously approved a bill Oct. 11 that includes a federalized aviation security work force at the largest airports. Smaller airports could use local law enforcement officers as screeners.
House Republicans, who have the support of the White House, yesterday warned against creating another government bureaucracy. Their bill is modeled after aviation security systems commonly used in Europe.
"Our bill makes our air safe," said Rep. Don Young, the Alaska Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The House bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration to more closely monitor and regulate aviation security, such as with more stringent training of screeners who work for private firms. It also would assign at least one federal security manager to each airport screening station. A single FAA administrator would oversee aviation security nationally.
Mr. Young said the new regulations would result in an average wage for screeners of $32,000 per year, instead of about $15,000 per year under the previous system.
"I expect this to be a professional security job, just like at the nuclear plants," Mr. Young said.
Rep. John L. Mica, the Florida Republican who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said rather than spending $3 billion a year to turn security personnel into federal employees, the money should be used to develop and purchase better screening technologies.
"We want to have the latest technology," Mr. Mica said.
Some technologies could detect plastic knives, which the terrorists who launched the Sept. 11 attack on America reportedly used, Mr. Mica said.
The congressmen also have the option of voting on a bill that is an exact copy of the Senate bill.
"This bill is the mainstream bill," said Rep. Greg Ganske, Iowa Republican, who sponsored the House legislation that mirrors the Senate bill. Mr. Ganske's bill also has support among House Democrats.
The broad support in the Senate demonstrated the same bill should be acceptable to the House, he said at a press conference yesterday. He predicted quick passage in the House as soon as next week.
Supporters of the Senate bill say it would turn aviation security into a more professional operation.
"Airport security should be a law enforcement function, not a minimum wage function," said Rep. Jim Ramstad, Minnesota Republican. He and other congressmen warned that a delay in passing an aviation security bill could lead to another terrorist attack.
However, the White House is reluctant to accept the idea of another federal work force.
On Monday, President Bush said, "We must resist pressure to unwisely expand government." The White House has threatened to use an executive order to impose its own security plan if Congress cannot agree on a measure.
On other aviation security issues, the House and Senate are in agreement. Both want fortified cockpit doors, armed air marshals on most commercial flights and more anti-hijacking training for flight crews.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey refused to take sides yesterday on whether the aviation security force should be federalized. She agreed, however, that the system used before Sept. 11 was inadequate.
"What is the most important is increased federal management and control," Miss Garvey said during a luncheon at the National Press Club.


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