Aviation Security Forum Update — August 13, 2008

Securing National Transportation
Protecting the U.S.’s 450 U.S. airports—not to mention its highways, railroads, mass transit systems, pipelines, and ports—is an arduous task. The nation’s transportation defenses are constantly being tested. Just last week, 18 passengers were arrested for suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents, and 23 illegally carried firearms were confiscated at TSA check points. [Resource: www.tsa.gov — TSA Week at a Glance, August 4-10]

“You have limited resources so you have to focus on high-risk concerns,” said TSA Assistant Administrator John Sammon, who briefed AvSec attendees on agency policy and risk reduction methodology. “You have to be able to act on the data you collect,” he said, underscoring that intelligence gathering is not enough. The assistant administrator also stressed the need for determining measures of success to evaluate agency efforts.

Sammons outlined the wide range of current national transportation vulnerabilities and risk-reduction actions the agency is taking to close existing security gaps. He also discussed the value of engaging with stakeholders to pool resources and creating layers of security, based on common interests and goals.

Narrowing the Focus to Passenger Airlines
Formulating strategic plans and policy to engage stakeholders at the passenger-airline level is the task of Dave Bernier, general manager for commercial airlines within the TSA’s Transportation Security Network Management (TSNM). Bernier works with the 85 existing airlines, as well as any new entrants to the industry, to ensure that crucial safeguards are implemented.

The TSA general manager discussed his responsibility for developing security directives and networks with industry stakeholders like ALPA to share information and coordinate security efforts.

Bernier reviewed the role of the principle security inspector, pointing out that a PSI is typically assigned to seven airlines. He talked about the status of the CrewPASS test project, which is currently being conducted at the Baltimore Washington and Pittsburgh International Airports as well as Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina. Bernier noted that during the first 26 days of the 60-day test program, more than 10,500 pilots were processed at the three airports.

Following Bernier’s presentation, ALPA National Security Council chairman, Capt. Bob Hesselbein (Northwest), publically recognized ALPA Engineering and Air Safety manager Jerry Wright, who originally suggested the idea of using the cockpit access security system, or CASS, as the basis for CrewPASS.

From Passenger Ops to Cargo
Bernier’s cargo counterpart within the TSNM is Ed Kelly, who reviewed what will be required to comply with legislation calling for 100 percent cargo screening on all passenger aircraft by 2010. Kelly noted that 6,000 tons of cargo are shipped on passenger aircraft daily and that 87 percent of the cargo originates from the nation’s Category X, or busiest, airports.

“Once freight is (initially) screened and secured, how do you confirm down the chain of custody that it hasn’t been tampered with?” he asked.

By the legislative deadline, all cargo will need to be screened at the piece level by approved TSA methods, and screening will be conducted at different stages during the air cargo supply chain. Kelly reviewed current methods of screening and the resources that will be required.

In January, the TSA initiated a test program, using 14 high-volume freight forwarders at 63 facilities in 18 cities. Success will depend upon the freight forwarders’ ability to meet documentation requirements, follow prescribed processing methods, and accept the terms of the program.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, ALPA’s National Security vice-chairman, Capt. Bill McReynolds (FedEx), commented that the policy, although applauded by ALPA, needs to be extended to cover all-cargo operations.

Managing Air Transportation Security from the Outside
Adequately safeguarding the nation’s transportation infrastructure requires international cooperation. The TSA networks through bilateral and multilateral foreign partnerships and capacity-building efforts to enhance global air transportation security. Spearing heading these efforts are individuals like Cindy Farkus, assistant administrator of the TSA’s Office of Global Strategies (OGS).

Farkus commented that OGS is a relatively small operation, with 150 employees, but its outreach efforts extend around the world, protecting U.S. assets overseas and serving as the nation’s transportation security liaison. TSA employees work together with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in embassy environments and are assigned to regions.

“Our goal is to harmonize transportation security strategies,” she said, adding that the OGS takes “best practices” to ICAO to help establish international security policies.