Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today announced that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has agreed to expand its Explosive Detection Canine Team Program by placing six trained teams in Maine.
The TSA Explosives Detection Canine Team Program is a partnership with industry in which airports and mass transit systems voluntarily participate and are supported by federal funds. The TSA pays to purchase and train the dogs, trains the canine handlers, and partially reimburses each participating agency for costs associated with maintaining the teams. In turn, the local jurisdiction agrees to utilize TSA canine teams at least 80 percent of the time in the transportation environment and to maintain a minimum of three certified teams available for around-the-clock incident response.
“I have been working with the TSA in an effort to augment our existing state resources with TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased to announce that the TSA has agreed to offer this program to selected state and local police departments in Maine that are strategically located near vital modes of transportation, enabling them to provide another layer of protection and resources to help secure Maine.”
The TSA currently has certified explosives detection canine teams stationed at each of the nation’s largest airports. In Maine, the teams could be used to search aircraft and terminals, cargo and ferry terminals, and bus stations and will be especially useful given Maine’s long international border with Canada, the number of diverted flights that are forced to land at Bangor International Airport, and the amount of traffic at our busy ports.
Each canine team, composed of one dog and one handler, will undergo 10-weeks of intensive training at the Transportation Security Administration Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Once the teams are certified by the TSA, they undergo several hours of proficiency training each week in their operational environment, which includes all the smells and distractions associated with a busy airport or mass transit system. The TSA also requires each team to go through an intensive three to four day annual re-certification to demonstrate they continue to meet TSA-certification standards. These standards are some of the most stringent in the nation and include demonstrated performances in searching aircraft, luggage, terminals, cargo and vehicles.