- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

President Bush will authorize the reopening of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The number of flights will be limited, new security measures will be put in place and air marshals will be assigned to planes.
Mr. Bush approved a security package at a White House meeting yesterday and will announce his plans as early as today, said several administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The airport close to the White House, Pentagon, Capitol and other major landmarks could be reopened in a matter of days, with the additional security measures in place.
Air marshals would fly on every plane, and the number of flights in and out of the airport would be reduced. Flight paths would be scrambled; not all will follow the Potomac River, said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican. He met yesterday afternoon with other Virginia legislators, Gov. James S. Gilmore III and Bush administration officials, including political strategist Karl Rove and Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
Other security improvements could include more screening of passengers and luggage, and securing the cockpits of all airplanes.
However, several of the Virginia lawmakers said after the meeting that they were frustrated by the uncertain reopening date and would attempt to force the airport open through legislation they plan to introduce as soon as today. They had sought a promise from Mr. Bush to allow flights to resume at Reagan Airport on a specific date in the near future. Instead, they said they received only "a vague pledge" that the president would decide when by the weekend.
"Obviously, we didn't get the announcement we were hoping for," said David Marin, Mr. Davis' spokesman. He said Mr. Moran plans to sponsor the legislation. Mr. Davis plans to co-sponsor it. "I don't think anyone thinks that's an ideal remedy for this, but everything has to be kept on the table for the thousands of people who are hurt by the airport's closure every day," Mr. Marin said.
He said Congress could override any delays or decisions by the president with legislation. "Congress could force the issue through the legislative process," Mr. Marin said.
However, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said she was uncertain whether Congress has authority to take the decision away from the president.
Reagan Airport has been closed since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, costing the Washington economy millions of dollars, and 10,200 airport employees have been laid off as the administration wrestled with a way to satisfy security agencies. The Secret Service has lobbied hard to keep the airport closed. It is the only major airport still closed after the attacks. The airliner that was crashed into the Pentagon flew from Dulles International Airport, which reopened shortly after the attack.
About 42,000 passengers use the airport every day, including many members of Congress. About 6,000 jobs are at closely connected businesses such as car-rental companies, shops and restaurants. Business groups estimate that another 70,000 tourism and hospitality jobs depend on the airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Reagan Airport, estimates that it pumps $2.4 billion a year into the local economy.
Efforts to require all planes taking off to head south and all planes arriving to come into the airport from the south, away from the government buildings, have been rejected as impractical, said Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. Administration officials confirmed that.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said the security measures would apply to all planes using the airport. "It's not just making Reagan Airport secure," Mr. Warner said. "It's the feeder airports."
Two Transportation Department task forces on airport and airline security delivered recommendations yesterday to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
"The secretary is reviewing the recommendations," said Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosley. "An announcement on these recommendations may occur by midweek."
Although Transportation Department officials refused to discuss details, Mr. Mineta has said new security requirements could include air marshals on all commercial flights, reinforced cockpit doors to prevent break-ins, and federalization of airport screening and security. Mr. Mineta has promised to act quickly to implement any recommendations he agreed were necessary.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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