April 06, 2016

Warner, Kaine Support Efforts To Boost Security At Virginia Airports

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are seeking to attach a new proposal to strengthen security at Virginia’s airports – especially in non-secure “soft” target areas like check-in and baggage claim areas – to the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. The Senate proposal, which comes after the recent wave of terror attacks in Europe, would also 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.

Washington Dulles International and Reagan National, located in Northern Virginia,  are two of North America’s most trafficked airports.  In 2015, 44.69 million domestic and international passengers traveled through Dulles and Reagan.  Kaine and Warner have supported additional funds for federal, state and local preparedness grant programs, which support critical security investments at transportation hubs in the Commonwealth.

“The attack at the Brussels airport underscored vulnerabilities that remain in airport security nearly 15 years after 9/11. Virginia is home to two of the nation’s busiest airports, each of which serve more than 20 million passengers each year,” Warner said. “As part of the FAA authorization, we need to make sure we are doing all we can to keep Americans safe when they travel.” 

“With over 40 million travelers passing through Dulles International and Reagan National every year, it’s critical that we tighten up security in vulnerable areas like check-in and baggage claim,” said Kaine. “The Brussels airport attack was a wake-up call that we must take seriously, and the FAA bill is the right vehicle to get this done.”

Specifically, the amendment that Senate Democrats will seek to add to the FAA reauthorization to strengthen U.S. airport security would:

1.      Expand and Enhance Visible Deterrents (VIPR teams)

The Senate Democratic proposal would double the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from 30 to 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.      New Funding for Law Enforcement Training Active Shooter Incidents

The Senate Democratic proposal would 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.      Strengthening Airport and Mass Transit Security in Non-Secure Areas

The Senate Democratic proposal would also authorize 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.