- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

In the wake of September 11, Congress passed the Aviation and Security Act, which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and numerous security mandates. The most sweeping mandate requires the screening of all checked baggage with Explosive Detection Systems (EDS) by Dec. 31 of this year. Good mandate. Bad deadline.
The bottom line is that very few of the nation's 429 commercial airports have the capacity to install the expensive and bulky EDS machines by the end of the year. In most cases, entire airport terminals will have to be remodeled to accommodate the machines, which are the size of small vans.
In May, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport initiated a letter from 39 airport directors to Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, who oversees the TSA, urging him to seek legislative relief from the impending Dec. 31 deadline for baggage screening. To date, our concerns have been acknowledged, but the TSA is blinded by this artificial date.
Last week, Texas Rep. Kay Granger introduced legislation designed to provide relief for the nation's airports primarily large airports that require flexibility to implement costly long-term solutions. Her legislation was passed out of committee and attached to the Homeland Security bill which passed the House last Friday night. We urge the Senate to support this critical legislation. Airports will begin working toward full compliance as soon as the TSA approves our plans for screening baggage, but Dec. 31 is an unrealistic and unachievable deadline.
In addition to the cost and manpower required for the new measures, our nation's air travel will be severely disrupted by less than optimal security solutions that result in unacceptably long lines, wait times and missed flights. We can't make security so onerous and such a hassle that customer service is lost in the shuffle. That's when the flying public will pack their bags and resort to other forms of transportation an advent the aviation industry, the airlines, the economy and the traveling public can ill afford.
At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, we estimate that compliance with the TSA deadline will require a minimum of $195 million and eight months to remodel our terminals and hire the requisite manpower to operate the new EDS machines. Shortly after Congress enacted the new security legislation, we hired some of the nation's most highly qualified architects, engineers and baggage systems specialists to analyze the facility, operational and manpower requirements necessary to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for EDS machinery. The airport was ready to go by April 15, but the TSA could not meet that deadline.
Shortly after we completed the study, the TSA announced that it would permit the combined use of EDS machines and smaller Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) machines in an effort to meet the deadline. While smaller airports can make do with ETD machines as an interim or possibly ultimate solution, large airports cannot. As a result of our inability to implement a seamless inline system, we went through yet another planning process that resulted in an interim solution using ETD machines in the airport lobbies and EDS machines on the tarmac. Unfortunately, this solution would require an estimated 1,500 employees just to screen 55,000 bags per day at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The estimated annual cost is $76 million for manpower and $42 million for capital improvements all of which will be wasted when the preferred long-term solution is finally deployed.
Rest assured that no one is more concerned about ensuring the safety of the traveling public than the nation's airports, before and after the tragic events of September 11. But we must not rush to implement solutions that don't make sense. It's critical that we take a measured, comprehensive and holistic approach to aviation security.
Meanwhile, the traveling public will continue to be protected by multiple layers of security. Since the tragic events of September 11, a combination of random bag checks, bag matching and various forms of scrutiny at checkpoints make flying safer than ever. Security will get even better we simply want to ensure it's done by practical methods that don't waste taxpayer dollars and air passengers' valuable time. Let's do it right the first time.

Jeffrey P. Fegan is CEO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. For more information: www.dfwairport.com.

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