House/Senate Conferees Adopt Thompson Amendment Requiring Strict Performance Standards For Aviation Security

WASHINGTON – The House/Senate Conference on the Aviation Security Bill today adopted an amendment by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) to the Aviation Security Act requiring the federal government to enforce strict standards for airport security personnel.

The Thompson measure requires that those responsible for airport security be held accountable for meeting measurable performance goals, particularly involving the detection of dangerous objects.

“We’re changing the basic mindset with regard to measuring airport security performance,” Thompson said, noting that in the past government performance standards have focused on measuring things such as time spent training and hours worked between breaks. “The primary concern of the American people is the bottom line – whether or not dangerous objects are getting past screeners and whether or not unauthorized individuals are gaining access to secure areas in our airports. That’s what people care about, that’s what we’re going to measure from now on, and that’s how employee performance will be judged,” Thompson said.”This is the kind of thing that will restore confidence in air travel.”

At a Wednesday, November 14 Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on aviation security, Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead testified that in order to improve aviation security, we must “require passenger and baggage screeners to have uniform, more rigorous . . . performance standards nationwide.”

He applauded the Thompson amendment to the Aviation Security Act, calling the requirement to set measurable goals and objectives for aviation security “particularly noteworthy. It is important that performance standards be established for screeners, whether they are federal or contract employees,” Mead stated.

Thompson’s amendment requires the new head of aviation security to implement results-based management in airport security operations by establishing an annual staff performance management system that includes requiring managers and employees to meet individual, group, and organizational performance goals consistent with an annual performance plan. The Thompson amendment also requires the new head of aviation security to establish specific performance standards and establish a long-term process for reporting performance results to Congress annually.