WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the inclusion of an amendment he sponsored along with Senate Democrats to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Reauthorization bill to strengthen U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure “soft” target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas. The amendment comes after the recent wave of terror attacks in Europe. The measures in the amendment would update federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increase the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines at these non-secure areas.
“In the wake of recent terror attacks abroad, it’s critical that we work to address vulnerabilities that exist in public places here at home in order to deter and prevent similar attacks,” said Senator Carper. “These commonsense security measures will deter bad actors and give law enforcement more tools they can use to keep Americans safe. This amendment is an important step in the right direction, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, as well as our law enforcement and intelligence communities, to develop smart solutions to combat these ever-evolving terror threats.”
Specifically, the amendment that the full Senate passed today in the FAA reauthorization will:
1. Expand and Enhance Visible Deterrents (VIPR teams)
The measure doubles the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from 30 to as many as 60 and add their operations to non-sterile areas of an airport, such as outside of a check point, to enhance “soft target” security. These VIPR teams promote confidence in and protect the nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement capabilities at transit hubs, including airports and subways, and National Special Security Events (NSSEs). TSA works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy these teams based on threat levels and other security priorities. VIPR Teams consist of a variety of operational assets that include Law Enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel. They are recognizable to the American public because the teams often include bomb-sniffing canines. TSA VIPR deployments are coordinated with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and industry security partners throughout the United States.
2. Provide New Funding for Law Enforcement Training Active Shooter Incidents
The measure will create a new eligible use under SHSGP/UASI funding for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents at public locations, including airports, mass transit systems and other “soft target” areas. Currently, 25 percent of Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program funds are used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities. However, there is no explicit authorization for those funds to be used for training exercises for active shooter incidents events at public locations.
3. Strengthen Airport and Mass Transit Security in Non-Secure Areas
The measure authorizes and makes explicit that State Homeland security funding grants (SHSGP / UASI) can be used for airport and surface transportation security in non-secure “soft” areas.