CAPTAIN DUANE WOERTH, PRESIDENT
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL
THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC SECURITY,
INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION AND CYBERSECURITY
OF THE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MAY 13, 2005
Good morning. I am Duane Woerth, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. ALPA is the world's largest pilot union, representing more than 64,000 pilots who fly for 41 airlines in the U.S. and Canada.
We applaud the Committee for holding this hearing and we especially appreciate Chairman Cox's interest in the subject of flight crew screening, and for inviting ALPA to testify on this extremely important issue for our members.
The answer to the question of this hearing is an emphatic Yes!the screening of airline pilots, as practiced by the TSA, is a waste of scarce resources. That is because pilots are demonstrably trustworthy individuals who have had extensive background and criminal history records checks. But it's worse than thatthe current security system also wastes resources by making virtually no effort to remove from privacy-invading physical scrutiny the vast majority of trustworthy passengers who do not pose a threat to airline security. As a result, babies, military officers, families with small children, and octogenarians are all subject to the same "one size fits all" physical searches. Women have been subjected to pat-down techniques that bordered on molestation. And in what for us is a supreme irony, the very same pilot who, as a Federal Flight Deck Officer, is allowed to carry a firearm through the screening checkpoint on a Monday, is not allowed to carry a fingernail file on Tuesday because he is flying home, out of uniform.
These problems exist because the U.S. security screening system is built on two flawed assumptions. The first is that every crewmember and passenger poses a potential threat to security. Logic dictates that pilots and other crewmembers that have been extensively vetted and are authorized to operate airplanes must be deemed as trustworthyif not, why not? Furthermore, only a very small fraction of passengers pose some degree of threat, but our screening resources are greatly diluted by giving the same degree of physical scrutiny to an airline pilot, as is given to a federal prison parolee.
The other erroneous assumption is that individuals do not pose a threat once they have been screened for objects. That may be true for most people, but it does not apply to a fanatically dedicated and highly trained terrorist.
There are three fundamental problems that arise from these false assumptions:
First, we are not as secure as we could be because our screening system is incapable of identifying unarmed, but very dangerous, terrorists and keeping them off of our airplanes. The terrorists that now confront us do not need weapons to hijack airplanes. TSA confiscates many thousands of prohibited items from passengers each year, but we cannot logically conclude that security is enhanced, unless those passengers had hostile intent and the capability to use it.
Second, the screening system is enormously expensive to staff and equipTSA spent $3.7 billion operating screening checkpoints last year. Airlines are forced to pay taxes and fees that subsidize the cost of these wasteful, inefficient, and in many respects, ineffective security measures. These costs, in turn, are passed along to the consumer. By our calculations, the total cost of screening pilots last year was as much as $112 million. We base this rough estimate on 100,000 airline pilots each being screened just once per daysome are screened more oftenflying 20 days per month, at a cost of $4.70 per screening, which was derived from FAA enplanement and TSA cost data. We can think of many ways that $112 million could be spent to actually improve security, as I'll note in a moment.
Third, the hassle and delays attributable to long screening checkpoint lines is actually devaluing airline travel in the minds of passengers and driving away our best customers, who are increasingly choosing to fly on small business jets. Horror stories of mistreatment and delays at the hands of screeners are causing citizens to lose respect for our aviation security system, and in the broader view, to lose faith in our government's ability to perform such basic functions.
We conclude that the current security system is brokenso, what should we do about it?
The Israeli screening model, widely regarded by aviation security experts as the best in the industry, has been proven to work in one of the most dangerous areas in the world. The Israelis do not physically screen their airline pilots; they are positively identified and sent on to the gate. They have also learned that the best way to screen airline passengers is by both focusing on the human being and considering what types of objects they may be carrying. Information is collected on passengers before they arrive at the airport and highly trained personnel assess individual characteristics that might indicate deceptive behavior. Considerably less time and resources are spent on physically screening those who meet a threshold of trustworthiness than those who are suspicious or unknown.
Although we cannot directly translate and upscale the entire Israeli system to all U.S. operations, we can modify their paradigm and apply the basic philosophies of the Israeli methods to our own screening system.
Accordingly, we recommend that first and foremost, airline pilots, law enforcement officers, and others within the aviation industry and government who can demonstrate trustworthiness, should be identified by electronic means at screening checkpoints and not subjected to physical screening. As I've said before, there's no benefit to screening pilots and it costs a fortune. The Transportation Worker Identification Card, or TWIC, program should be used to positively identify trusted pilots and others in the airline industry. Unfortunately, TWIC hasn't been tested in a meaningful way in the commercial aviation environment and government policy about its implementation leaves the program's future very much in doubt.
The government should move quickly with industry's help to create and implement a trust-based security screening system for passengers, which incorporates the Israeli system's fundamental concepts. Registered Travelers and others who can meet an established threshold of trust should be expeditiously processed. Doing so will lessen the amount of privacy invasion, hassles and delays for millions of passengers who are now subject to physical searches. ALPA is a strong proponent of RT; I have personally used the program at National Airport and am bewildered why this necessary program has not already been implemented across the country.
TSA currently has a goal of 10 minutes average for screening passengerswe would like to see that goal become one minute or less, which is very doable with the system that we envision. We encourage the adoption of Secure Flight, which we understand is to become operational later this year, as another means of enhancing the security system. We also recommend that the government adopt a program for airport law enforcement to help screeners by spotting suspicious behaviors. Boston Logan's State Police cadre has created such a program that we believe could have nation-wide applicability.
That concludes my summary. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today and I will answer any questions that the committee may have.
See Captain Woerth's written submission.