Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 27, 2006

Chertoff fights for aviation security fees

Filed under: Aviation Security,Budgets and Spending — by Christian Beckner on February 27, 2006

In a USA Today story, Sec. Chertoff responds to suggestions in Congress that the proposed TSA fee increases are unacceptable:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the nation’s aviation system remains “the No. 1 target” for terrorists, and he warns that his agency may have to cut spending on security at airports if Congress rejects a fee increase for some passengers.

“If the airline industry fights a fee all the time and wins and the result is we have to cut spending on airline screening, then lines are going to be longer, and customers are going to be more ticked off,” Chertoff said in an interview Friday. “And of course, the worst thing would be if something happened and a plane blew up. That would be a real shot at the heart of the airline industry. So they’ve got a real interest in making sure we have adequate funding for this….”

Without the fee, the Transportation Security Administration, which runs airport security, will need to close a $1-billion-plus hole in its budget, Chertoff said. He said that could mean cuts to the nation’s force of airport screeners. When Congress rejected the fee increase last year, the number of screeners was cut from 45,000 to 43,000.

Chertoff seems to suggest that cutting TSA’s budget would be the only option if the fee wasn’t approved. Opponents of the increased TSA fee on the House appropriations subcommittee for homeland security have suggested that some of the new border security proposals could be cut back. The Senate appropriations subcommittee for homeland security has yet to tip its hand. Its chairman Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) has been a strong supporter of increased border funding, but he was against increased TSA fees last year, so it’s unclear what position he’ll take on the budget. We should learn more at a subcommittee hearing with Sec. Chertoff on Tuesday.

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1 Comment »

309

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 27, 2006 @ 9:07 am

The airline industry is already heavily subsidized including much of its direct and indirect security costs. Given the air marshall program and better cockpit doors, both of which were allowed to wither and assisted in 9/11 it is evident that this industry is willing to do whatever it takes to lower costs. Perhaps the industries that benefit from the airline industry should pick up a share but it remains a real act of faith when travelers get on an airplane and they know the unwillingness of the industry to make they sure they arrive safely. Pilots and crew excepted. After all as Gus Grissom once said “How would you feel riding a vehicle that has 90,000 parts all of which went to the lowest bidder.” And by the way, when issues of Congressional convenience caused Reagan National Airport to reopen after 9/11 we found out where Congress stood on safety precautions. When the scheduled airline eventually hits the capitol i will be overlooked that it should not have happened. Reagan should have been closed permanently and only DOD and Civil agency traffic allowed. There is no reason that high-speed shuttles to airports outside of SMSA’s could not utilized to spread the risk.

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