Bush to propose heightened aviation security
WASHINGTON -- President Bush will ask the governors of all 50 states to mobilize the National Guard for airport security until tighter measures can be put in place, the White House says.
Bush met with senior advisers late Wednesday to review the proposals he will outline at a rally of airport workers at Chicago's O'Hare airport on Thursday. Other proposals include putting the federal government in charge of airport security and screening services.
Additionally, Bush will propose an increase in the number of armed air marshals aboard flights and the establishment of a $500 million fund to strengthen cockpit security.
But sources told CNN that the administration firmly opposes the idea of letting pilots carry handguns in the cockpit.
In the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, Bush gave a pair of mid-level Air Force generals the authority to order any commercial airline threatening American cities shot down -- without seeking the president's prior approval.
The principles Bush will outline on Thursday call for the airlines to fortify cockpit doors, restrict the opening of cockpit doors during flight and keep the cockpit crew apprised of activity in the cabin during flight. The multi-million dollar fund -- provided through grants and cost-sharing arrangements with other projects -- will pay for aircraft modifications.
New federal duties would include supervising passenger and baggage security, performing background checks and training screeners and other security personnel, purchase and control of all equipment and oversight of security patrols.
Bush will be accompanied in Chicago by House Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and House Minority Leader Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., in a show of bipartisan support for quick congressional action on airline security improvements.
The president is also facing increased pressure to address the layoffs in the airline and other industries with a package of federal assistance.
Some of the actions Bush proposes can be taken administratively by the Federal Aviation Administration; others require congressional action. The administration proposals will deal with three major areas of the airport and airline security debate:
-- AIRPORT SECURITY SCREENING: The administration does not favor making this a full federal responsibility, the sources said. But "they recognize their needs to be a greater federal role," one lawmaker briefed on the administration's views said.
This lawmaker and other sources said the administration favored federal standards, training and testing for security positions, and a larger federal presence at security checkpoints, especially at major airports.
"Seeing an armed officer with a federal badge as you go through the checkpoint is going to be a familiar sight, if not at every airport, then at most," an administration official involved in the deliberations said.
-- AIR MARSHALS: The administration will call for a broad-based federal air marshal program that offers "substantial if not complete" coverage of commercial flights.
The administration already is borrowing agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies to serve temporarily as air marshals while others are hired and trained for this role.
-- COCKPIT SECURITY: The administration backs installation of stronger, secure cockpit doors. The FAA already has ordered immediate cockpit security improvements, and the administration's proposal envisions additional short-term steps, such as security bars and other access barriers, during the phase-in period for the fortified doors.
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