WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is joining a group of senators, led by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), in urging House and Senate members negotiating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill to include a provision to enhance U.S. airport and mass transit security. The senators sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who are currently negotiating the FAA Reauthorization bill. This provision passed the Senate earlier this year with overwhelming support.
The provision would strengthen security, especially in non-secure "soft" target areas at airports, like check-in and baggage claim areas. The proposal would also update federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increase the presence of federal security teams with bomb-sniffing canines at these non-secure areas.
"As you work to finalize legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we urge you to include the provision, which passed the Senate in April with a 91 to 5 vote, to safeguard and strengthen U.S. Airports and mass transit security, especially in non-secure 'soft' target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas," the senators wrote. "The provision would increase the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from the current 30 to as many as 60 and add their operations to non-sterile areas of an airport, such as outside of a checkpoint, to enhance 'soft target' security. As you know, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy VIPR teams based on threat levels and other security priorities and consist of law enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel ... We look forward to working with you to ensure these additional safeguards will better equip us to respond to terror threats and preserve our freedom to go about our daily lives."
With agency funding set to expire on July 15, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), the lead Senate negotiator, indicated that the Senate could consider the final FAA reauthorization bill before the July 15th deadline.
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
A copy of the letter is available here.