- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

The Transportation Security Administration will not station federal security officers throughout airports in response to the July Fourth shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, but it has begun a comprehensive survey of every airport's vulnerabilities, the head of the administration said.

Undersecretary of Transportation for Security John W. Magaw said that even though the agency's mission is to protect entire airports, the TSA will continue to focus on screening baggage and passengers at security checkpoints and rely on local, state and airport police to secure the rest of airports.

"We intend to work with the entire airport family in that we look at our key responsibility as checkpoints and baggage," Mr. Magaw told the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security during a hearing on how agencies will continue to perform their duties after they are moved to the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

Congress is wrestling with President Bush's proposal for consolidating many of the nation's security agencies in the new department. This week, the House began a busy schedule of hearings and bill-writing sessions in order to meet a Friday deadline imposed by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. Next week, a select committee headed by Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, will put together the pieces that come out of the regular committees' work.

"That is moving quite on pace," Mr. Armey told reporters yesterday.

The select committee will hold a hearing tomorrow with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill also are expected.

The officials at the Judiciary subcommittee meeting yesterday said they agree with the president's proposal to move their agencies into the proposed department but stressed that their own functions should not be split during the move.

Several committee members wondered whether the Coast Guard will falter in its drug interdiction and search-and-rescue missions if it takes on too many domestic security tasks.

But Adm. Thomas H. Collins, the Coast Guard's commandant, said that because the same people and equipment are responsible for both functions, buying new equipment for security patrols intrinsically aids search-and-rescue missions.

And Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, said it is important for agencies such as Customs to balance security with trade something that would be difficult for two separate agencies to do. He said that immediately after September 11, it took trucks 12 hours to cross the border at some posts because of new security procedures. Within a week, the service had reduced those times substantially while following through with added security.

"The reason I was able to do that is I had both roles," he said.

As envisioned, the homeland security department would be huge, encompassing 75,000 armed agents under a single umbrella.

Mr. Magaw said his administration has grown. When he was first confirmed in January it had about 15 employees, but by December, he will oversee between 60,000 and 65,000 employees, most of them part of the new requirement for a federal force of baggage screeners.

"I think that's a new record in growth of a federal department or agency," said subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican.

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