Newsroom

Senator Murray Supports Transportation Security Investments in Senate Supplemental Appropriations Bill

Jun 05 2002

Bill Will Boost Security for Aiports, Sea Ports, Cargo & Buses

(Washington, DC) - Today, as the U.S. Senate considered the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bill because it makes critical investments in transportation security.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Mr. President, as the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I rise in strong support of the Senate Amendment to HR 4775, the Supplemental Appropriations Bill for 2002.

During our debate, I have heard complaints that this bill is too big because it goes beyond the President's request. Members are asking why this bill is larger than the Administration's request and why it is larger than the House-passed bill.

Our bill is larger, in part, because it makes the critical investments we need to make in transportation security that were left out of the House and Administration proposals.

We've spent months listening to the experts and finding out what investments we need to make. We did that on my own subcommittee and through Senator Byrd's leadership we discovered the needs through full committee hearings on Homeland Defense.

The President's budget and the House budget do not make the necessary investments in transportation security. Our bill does and that's why it's larger than the President's request.

I want to spend a few minutes explaining what's in our bill because it will prove that these are critical investments that the President and the House have not been willing to make.

For example:

  • Our bill fully funds the President's request for the Transportation Security Administration.
  • It will improve cargo security.
  • It will enhance security in and around our nation's airports.
  • It will improve security on intercity buses.
  • It will allow the Coast Guard to assess the vulnerability of our seaports.
  • It will ensure the FAA can meet the staffing needs in our nation's control towers this summer -- without stealing from the budget for modernization and safety improvements.
  • It will better reimburse our nation's airports for the considerable expense they have incurred due to our new security requirements.
  • And overall it will address the security challenges we know are out there.
House Accounting Is Not Accurate

Before I talk about some of the specifics of the bill, I just want to correct the record on one point. Some have claimed that our bill is $2.2 billion larger than the House-passed bill. That is simply not accurate. While some in the House claim their bill is $28.8 billion, it's actually $30.1 billion when you use traditional, customary Congressional Budget Office scorekeeping. But instead of using that method, they've used accounting gimmicks. For some items in their bill, they actually chose to use OMB scorekeeping - for example - concerning the delay in the availability of airline loan guarantees.

Senate Bill Invests More in Transportation Security

But that point aside, the Senate bill is larger than the President's request and the House request and one of the largest differences is in the area of Transportation Security. In this area, the funding level in our bill is $928 million or 20 percent higher than the Administration's request.

It's important to point out that the House of Representatives actually cut the President's request for Transportation Security. That's why the Senate bill is $1.244 billion or 29 percent higher than the House-passed bill.

The centerpiece of the Transportation Chapter of this bill is the $4.7 billion that the Committee has included for the new Transportation Security Administration or TSA. That amount is more than $300 million higher than the level requested by the Administration and more than $850 million more than what is provided in the House bill.

Senate Funding Will Help Implement New Aviation and Transportation Security Act

First and foremost, the funding provided for the TSA will fully cover the Administration's request to implement the recently enacted Aviation and Transportation Security Act that the President signed into law.

The House version of the bill imposes several cuts to the Administration's request just at the time that the Administration is aggressively seeking to meet the deadlines imposed by the Transportation Security Act. The most daunting of these deadlines is the requirement to screen all checked baggage for explosives by the end of this calendar year.

Mr. President, like many of my colleagues, I have been frustrated with the performance of the Transportation Security Administration in implementing these requirements. There has not been sufficient consultation with the nation's airports or with Congress. There has not been a sufficient amount of hiring at the TSA of individuals with a transportation background. But still, I don't think the solution to these problems is to impose significant cuts on the resources that the Administration has requested.

Like many of my colleagues, I do a great deal of flying. I've witnessed the long lines of passengers seeking to get through airport security checkpoints, and I've shared the frustration of clearing the security checkpoint only to be screened again at the gate.

Mr. President, our aviation industry is already suffering due to the fact that the high-revenue business travelers - who provide 40 percent of the airlines' revenues -- are not returning to the skies. If the Transportation Security Administration does not succeed at its stated goal of providing high quality customer service and a short wait to clear airport security, our aviation industry is going to suffer a great deal further. Secretary Mineta and Transportation Undersecretary Magaw have committed themselves to a national standard where no passenger will wait longer than ten minutes to clear airport security. Frankly, many of us question whether they will achieve this goal. That's why the bill before you contains a requirement that the TSA publish, on a monthly basis, the actual wait times at each airport. I intend to monitor the TSA's performance in this area on a regular basis.

Treating Travelers With Dignity

Another area of great concern to me is that air passengers are treated with dignity as they pass through our nation's airports. If passengers can expect to be treated like criminals from the moment that they walk into the airport then they are not going to fly. Treating air passengers like criminals is not a formula for helping our airlines get back on their feet.

Mr. President, the Administration's TSA budget has gone through a very torturous path. A full month passed from the time that the Bush Administration submitted its $4.4 billion supplemental budget request for TSA to the time Secretary Mineta could sit down with the members of the Committee and discuss what the funds could be used for. That was not necessarily Secretary Mineta's fault. He was spending that month arguing with the President's Office of Management and Budget on how much money would be needed to implement the requirement to screen all checked baggage for explosives.

Explosive Detection Systems & Passenger Privacy

When the noise finally quieted down between the DOT and OMB, the results were very disappointing. Rather than deploy a significant number of Explosive Detection System (EDS) -- machines that can be easily integrated with the airports' luggage distribution systems -- the Administration has taken a cheaper route.

They want to deploy only Trace Detection Machines at three-quarters of the nation's airports. These Trace Detection Machines are effective at detecting explosives, but they were never designed or intended to be the primary explosive detection mechanism at airports.

What I find most troubling is the TSA's plan to require more than half of passengers' bags to be opened by Federal Enforcement personnel at three quarters of our nation's airports. I do not believe the flying public is going to be warm to the idea that there will be more than a fifty percent chance that Federal personnel will be rifling through their luggage when they check in at the airport.

As such, the Committee has included directives to the TSA to ensure that this regime is implemented with dignity and privacy in mind so that passengers will not have to open their luggage in the full view of other passengers.

Perimeter and Terminal Security at Airports

The Committee appropriation for the TSA includes a $35 million initiative in the area of Aviation Safety and Security that was not requested by the Administration. These funds are to be used exclusively for enhanced perimeter security and terminal security.

Unfortunately, Mr. President, it is not necessary to get through the security check points to attack our nation's aviation system. A terrorist can do a great deal of damage to our aviation system merely by performing a terrorist act within a crowded airport terminal. I believe that we may need a stronger surveillance regime in our airport terminals and the funding entered by the Committee will be used for this purpose.

Also, the record indicates that more needs to be done to ensure that only those individuals that are properly credentialed and qualified are granted access to the secure areas at our airports.

Over the last several months, there has been a spate of indictments and arrests of individuals that used falsified documents to gain access to secure areas of our airports. The additional funding provided by the Committee will ensure better protection of these areas.

Perhaps, these are the improvements that the OMB considers to be unnecessary security add-ons. But, I would recommend that Director Daniels review the testimony of both Secretary Mineta and Undersecretary Magaw before making these complaints. Both of these gentleman identified perimeter security as an area of significant need that is not adequately funded under the President's proposal.

Port and Maritime Security

In the area of port and maritime security, the Committee has included several new funding initiatives over and above those requested by the Administration. In the last Supplemental Appropriations bill, the Committee included $93 million for a new advanced program to beef up security in our nation's seaports. That $93 million appropriation elicited almost $700 million in applications.

In order to better meet that demand, the Senate bill includes an additional $200 million in the bill and also includes a $28 million initiative to deploy "Operation Safe Commerce."

During the Full Committee's hearings on Homeland Defense in April and May, we heard testimony from Admiral Richard Larrabee. Admiral Larrabee recently retired from the Coast Guard and became the Director of Commerce for the Ports in New York and New Jersey. He was sitting in his office in the World Trade Center when the terrorists attacked. He lost dozens of his colleagues that day.

Admiral Larrabee, along with Commander Stephen E. Flynn, Coast Guard Retired, both testified before the Appropriations Committee about the urgency of establishing a security regime to secure cargo containers from the point of origin to their domestic destinations.

In addition to the work of the full committee on this issue, the subcommittee has held two hearings on this issue. We heard from the Administration, labor, industry, port authorities and others in the field. It is difficult to overstate the importance of beginning to deal with this set of issues now.

Over thirty million intermodal containers enter our nation's seaports each year, and frankly, we know very little about what is in them. Between the Coast Guard and Customs Service, fewer than two percent of these containers are ever physically inspected. And the Customs Service has only recently begun to beef up the reporting requirements regarding the content of these containers.

The "Operation Safe Commerce" initiative in our bill will be deployed at the three largest container load centers in our country. Together, those port areas take in more than 50 percent of the containers that enter our country every year. Mr. President, it is impossible to exaggerate the damage that could be done to our economy if we are suddenly required to slow down the trade lanes into and out of our country because of security concerns. This initiative will demonstrate the art of the possible when it comes to improving the security of container shipping.

Bus Security

Also within the amounts provided for the TSA, the Committee has provided $20 million for improved security for over-the-road bus operators. I want to particularly commend the leadership of my colleague from Georgia, Senator Cleland on this issue. As Senator Cleland knows, intercity bus transportation is part of our country's vital infrastructure.

The nation's intercity bus operators are just beginning to use the most rudimentary methods to better ensure security of bus passengers. Given the frequency with which we see terrorists overseas use buses as a venue for horrific acts of terrorism, this is the minimal investment we should be making in this area.

Seaport Security: Assessments

The Senate bill provides slightly more than $666 million for the U.S. Coast Guard. These funds will be used to accelerate the Coast Guard's planned vulnerability assessments of our nation's seaports.

Funds will also be used to expedite the procurement of critical surface and aviation assets and to launch a new Maritime Domain Awareness Program to dramatically improve the Coast Guard's readiness to deal with the domestic terrorist threat.

During the Committee's hearing with Admiral Larrabee, we were disappointed to hear that the Coast Guard does not plan to conduct its vulnerability assessment of the second largest shipping port in the United States for two years. The Committee did not consider that to be a satisfactory plan. As such, our bill grants the Coast Guard funds to expedite these port vulnerability assessments across the country so we can better secure these gateways of the globe.

Funding the FAA

The bill includes $115 million that was not requested by the Administration for the emergency needs of the Federal Aviation Administration. Since September 11th, the FAA has had to spend at least $100 million to dramatically enhance security around its own critical air traffic control facilities. As a result, the FAA now finds itself $100 million short of the amount it needs to provide critical overtime expenses for air traffic controllers as we enter the busy summer time travel season.

Senators will remember that during the two summers prior to September 11th, air transportation in our country was rife with delays. If we don't adequately fund the shortfall in overtime at the FAA, you can expect to experience those delays again.

The Administration's budget proposed to meet this $100 million shortfall by transferring funds already appropriated to improve air traffic control equipment, safety and capacity. To me, that's not a responsible solution. We are years, if not decades, behind where we need to be in modernizing our air traffic control system, and we have huge unmet needs at our airports. That's why our bill provides the $100 million needed to pay for the air traffic controllers without stealing from those other accounts.

The Senate bill also includes an additional $100 million to better compensate the nation's airports for the security costs they have incurred since September 11th. Last year, the Committee appropriated $175 million for this purpose.

However, the airports submitted almost $500 million in costs to the FAA for this funding. This additional $100 million will better reimburse the nation's small, medium and large hub airports for the cost associated with the security directives issued by the FAA since September 11th. Finally, separate from the issue of Homeland Defense, the bill includes a provision drafted by Senator Harry Reid and myself authorizing a higher obligation ceiling for the Federal Aid Highway Program for Fiscal Year 2003.

As members should be aware, the Administration's budget proposes that overall highway funding to the States be drastically slashed by $8.6 billion next year. That represents a cut of more than 27%.

Senator Reid serves as the Chairman of the authorizing Subcommittee for highways. The provision that he and I drafted will ensure that as part of the appropriations process for 2003, the Appropriations Committee will restore at least $4.5 billion of the President's cut and perhaps as much as $5.7 billion of that cut.

I believe my colleagues will agree that during this uncertain time in our economy, we should do our best to avoid the President's proposal to slash hundreds of thousands of jobs and cut our investment in our nation's transportation infrastructure. The provision included in this bill -- authored by Senator Reid and myself -- will go a long way toward that goal.

I want to thank my colleague from Alabama, Senator Shelby, the Ranking Member of the Transportation Appropriation Subcommittee, for his assistance in developing the Transportation Chapter of this bill.

I also want to thank Senator Byrd and Senator Stevens, the bipartisan leadership of the Appropriations Committee, for their receptive approach to the views of the Subcommittee. Both leaders demonstrated needed vision and commitment to exploring and understanding these issues of critical importance to our nation's security and prosperity.

I believe the Transportation Chapter of this bill represents a strong comprehensive approach to our homeland security needs, and I look forward to arguing for every dollar of this funding when we go to Conference with the House of Representatives. Each item was developed with thought and care. Each item represents an investment that needs to be made. Each item will help build a more secure America.

The critics of this bill and those impeding progress put these investments at risk. I ask: What investment in airport security don't you want to make? What investment in seaport security don't you want to make?

What will you say to the American people - our soldiers and sailors defending our nation and the millions dependent on our airports and seaports - when we don't make these needed investments?

Mr. President, this is a reasonable bill that takes a reasonable approach to investing in America's security needs. This bill was reported unanimously out of the Appropriations Committee. I hope the Senate can dispense with the delays and get on with passing this important bill.