House Panel Considers Aviation Security Bills

A House panel will consider two bills Tuesday aimed at improving security within aviation facilities.

The first bill (HR 1413) would establish a trial program at five U.S. airports to screen all airport workers with access to secure areas. The second bill (HR 1981) would require new security standards and employee screening at foreign aircraft repair stations.

The House Homeland Security Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection panel will mark up the bills.

Consideration of the bill to establish the trial program comes after congressional outcry over an incident at Orlando International Airport in Florida, in which two baggage handlers were able to smuggle more than a dozen guns onto a commercial flight to Puerto Rico.

Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., a member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations panel and the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced the bill. It would require a dedicated lane for screening airport employees at each airport in the trial program.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) proposed a plan April 18 to increase risk-based screening of airport employees but not require screening all of them -- a plan that Lowey contended was a "weak substitute" for full screening.

"Meticulously screening passengers while inconsistently screening workers is like installing an expensive home security system but leaving your back door wide open," Lowey said.

California Republican Dan Lungren plans to introduce an amendment to test the TSA's more limited approach, rather than screening all workers, at three additional airports, according to a Republican committee aide. Another Lungren amendment would limit the use of a dedicated screening lane to one of the airports.

The foreign aircraft repair bill would direct the TSA administrator to issue security regulations for foreign repair stations and screen for the stations' employees. It would require the new standards to be "comparable" to those already in place for U.S. repair stations.

The markup is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in 1539 Longworth.

Source: CQ Today Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill. ©2007 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.