- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

It seems security is a bit wobbly at Dulles Airport, and that has left our regional members of Congress, who themselves are wobbly-legged following this week's anthrax scares, crying for a federal takeover. Not so fast. Federal oversight and high standards, not a federal takeover, is the answer. Safety and security lie in federal standards regarding strengthened cockpits, armed sky marshals, armed pilots, and greater scrutiny of airline and airport security workers all of which are in the works.

Our local congressmen are running scared again because seven of 20 security screeners at Washington Dulles International Airport failed a recent pop-quiz on basic security procedures. (And, it didn't help their cause that one guy "purportedly passed through a secruity checkpoint with a concealed pocketknife," according an Oct. 18 story in The Washington Times.) The quiz is part of a spot-check administered by the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration in light, of course, of the Sept. 11 attacks and because Argenbright Security Inc., which provides security at Dulles and Reagan National, is known for hiring criminals and failing to follow federal guidelines. The security lapses left this region's Democrats and Republicans running scared. Even Sen. John Warner, who, as former secretary of the Navy, should be displaying unflinching courage, supports federalizing airport security, which comprises about 28,000 workers. Shame on them all.

Now, it is a bit unsettling that security is lax. However, some post-Sept. 11 measures are already in place, including the sky marshal program and National Guardsmen positioned at key airport checkpoints, and arlines are moving quickly to harden cockpit doors. Also, the Bush administration announced this week that more than 1 million airport and airline workers from pilots and flight attendants to mechanics and baggage handlers will undergo FBI criminal background checks. And the administraton said it is developing a system for 100 percent screening of all baggage, a measure unanimously approved this week by the Senate. Such measures ensure the public that our airplanes and airwaves are safe.

However, the last thing our president needs at this juncture, amid a tenuous global economy, is a law that spends precious defense or other dollars on hiring 28,000 airport security guards. And, to be sure, the last thing our commander in chief needs as he leads the nation in battle is a restrictive bureaucratic covenant that ties his hands. President Bush should be given the flexiblity to make that decision by executive order not spoon fed by wimps who themselves sputter at the first sight of trouble.

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