Boost On Passenger Security Fee Opposed By Panel
Senate Commerce Committee leaders have voiced opposition to a proposed increase in the passenger security fee intended to fund airport inline baggage screening systems.
During a brief hearing featuring Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Kip Hawley and Cathleen Berrick, director of Homeland security and justice for the Government Accountability Office, Chair Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) questioned why the administration would propose a fee increase after Congress has rejected similar proposals in recent years.
Hawley responded that the fee proposal included in the fiscal year 2009 request is different from previous year’s proposals in that it would be for a limited duration (four years) and for the specific purpose of accelerating the deployment of optimal baggage systems at airports across the country.
According to AviationNews.net, Hawley noted that the proposed fee increase would raise $425 million a year or $1.8 billion over the next four years, which would provide enough resources to “complete all of the restructuring” necessary to deploy inline systems by 2012 at suitable airports. Absent the proposed fee increase, Hawley stated that airport baggage upgrades will take the next decade to complete.
Hawley said that the agency recently sent Congress its “spend plan” that highlights TSA’s strategic vision for moving forward with inline systems. As the American Association of Airport Executive’s (AAAE) Transportation Security Policy staff reported recently, TSA will contact individual airports soon, if they are among the 30 or so slated to receive federal funding.
In another area, Hawley announced plans to deploy hundreds of next generation, multi-view X-ray machines and whole body imagers in time for the upcoming busy summer travel season as part of TSA’s new Checkpoint Evolution. Hawley also noted that, in upcoming weeks, the agency will install more than 200 of the X-ray machines to airports, including Philadelphia, Washington-Dulles and Reagan National, Los Angeles, Denver, Las Vegas and others. Millimeter wave whole body imagers will be deployed to several additional airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Detroit, Las Vegas, Reagan National and Denver.