- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Transportation Security Administration inaugurated a nationwide security program at Washington-Dulles International Airport on Wednesday, in which canine teams will sniff cargo containers bound for passenger-carrying aircraft.

The three bomb-detecting canine teams are the first of more than 400 explosives-detection canine teams that will be trained over the next two years, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says. The teams will be deployed to airports with the greatest volume of cargo on passenger-carrying aircraft.

The Dulles teams were the first to certify in their local environment. The Miami International Airport is expected to be next. The Dulles teams finished a 10-week training program in March at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“This is a first-phase and my anticipation is that this program will grow,” said Terry Yannette, assistant federal security director at Dulles. “I expect to see, in the future, more inspectors with dogs. And hopefully one day expanding from cargo into the checkpoint arena.”

The program marks the first time that the TSA is training its own employees to be explosives-detection canine handlers.

TSA handlers are non-law-enforcement employees. There are currently 500 TSA-certified state and local law-enforcement teams deployed at 70 airports and 14 mass transit systems. TSA expects the new canine teams to enhance manageability of air cargo security.

“Canines are very flexible and mobile tool that we can use,” said Christopher White, deputy assistant administrator for the TSA. He indicated that there are massive amounts of cargo coming through airport hangars every day. It would take years to search or scan each box and container before it’s loaded on a plane.

The dogs walk through the hangars in minutes.

When a dog sniffs explosive material, it sits and stares at the container.

After the TSA announced the project, 2,500 TSA inspectors applied for 85 dog-handler positions. TSA inspector Elizabeth Koslow, 27, said she went after the position because she saw it as a challenge and a way to explore a new side of her job. After the three-month training period Ms. Koslow said her hard work has paid off.

“I love my dog,” she said, pointing to her black lab Suzy. “So, I’m glad I chose to apply and glad that I got the position.”

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