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President signs aviation security bill

Bush: Law to give Americans greater confidence in flying

Bush signing
President Bush signed the aviation security bill Monday at Reagan National Airport in suburban Washington. Reagan was kept closed longer than other U.S. airports after the September 11 attacks.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying the legislation offers "permanent and aggressive steps to improve the security of our airways," President Bush signed into law Monday the long-awaited aviation security bill.

"For our airways, there is one supreme priority: security," Bush said.

"The law I will sign should give all Americans greater confidence when they fly," the president said in a signing ceremony at Reagan National Airport accompanied by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

Referring to the financial hardships air carriers have suffered since September 11, Bush said, "A proud industry has been hit hard, but this nation has seen the dedication of our pilots and flight crews. ... I'm confident this industry will grow and prosper."

Under a compromise measure reached Thursday between congressional negotiators and the White House, as many as 28,000 workers screening passengers and baggage will become federal employees within a year. Five airports are to participate in a pilot program in which private contractors will provide security in a test of that option.

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 The negotiated deal
  • Within a year, all screening will be done by federally employed U.S. citizens
  • After three years, airports can request that private contractors handle screening
  • Federal workers allowed to unionize, but not strike
  • Five airports to take part in pilot programs to test security approaches
  • Passengers charged fee of $2.50 for each leg of trip, $5 maximum, to cover costs
  • Full systems to detect explosives operational by 2003
  • New database to allow cross-checking of names on watch lists
  • Number of air marshals increased
    Message Board: Safety in the skies 

    "For the first time, airport security will become a direct federal responsibility -- overseen by a new undersecretary of transportation for security," Bush said. "Additional funds will be provided for federal air marshals. A new team of federal security managers, supervisors, law enforcement officers and screeners will ensure that all passengers and carry-on bags are inspected thoroughly and effectively."

    The U.S. House of Representatives approved the compromise bill Friday, hours after the Senate passed the bill on a voice vote.

    Bush thanked the House and Senate leadership Monday "for their patience on this issue" and "for working hard to make sure this bill came to fruition."

    Within three years, airports will have the option to decide whether they want to continue using federal employees or switch to private screeners. The airports can use state or local law enforcement to provide security services.

    The measure that Bush signed also calls for stronger cockpit doors on planes and an increased presence of armed federal marshals on flights.

    Passengers are to be charged a fee of $2.50 for each leg of a trip -- with a $5 maximum -- to cover costs. The new federal security screening services also will be paid for by the government charging the airlines what they paid for security services from private contractors before September 11 -- an estimated cost of about $700 million.

    The measure makes airport security the responsibility of the newly created Transportation Security Administration in the U.S. Transportation Department.

    All security screeners are to become federal employees in a transition period lasting one year. But they will not be offered the same civil service protections as other federal employees, according to U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida.

    Security screeners are to undergo criminal background checks and will have to be U.S. citizens. Ken Quinn, general counsel for the Aviation Security Association, has said that 72 percent of the current screeners at Washington's Dulles International Airport are non-U.S. citizens.

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that salaries for security personnel would rise to an average of $35,000 for a screener and $52,000 for supervisors.

    The bill has been signed just as the peak holiday season gets under way and more than two months after terrorists used U.S. passenger jets to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

    The law provides "a new commitment to security in the air," Bush said, "and that's good news as Americans travel" to loved ones and friends for Thanksgiving.

    The American Automobile Association, or AAA, predicts that 30 million Thanksgiving travelers -- a record 87 percent of those going on a trip of 50 miles or more -- will choose to drive because of fears of flying after the September 11 attacks. The survey was taken before last week's crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in New York, so even more people may consider driving.

    Here are some other provisions of the aviation security measure:

    -- All checked baggage must be screened by explosive detection devices no later than December 31, 2002. Until then, all checked baggage will be inspected by other means, including X-ray, positive passenger matching and/or hand checking.

    -- The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System must be used to screen all passengers, instead of just those who check in at the ticket counter.

    -- Flight schools must conduct background checks on any non-U.S. citizen who seeks training to operate aircraft more than 12,500 pounds. Flight school employees also must be trained to recognize suspicious activities.

    The president also mentioned Monday that bus and train travel would be targeted for security upgrades, but he did not offer any details.

    CNN Washington Bureau Correspondents John King, Major Garrett and Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.


    • Federal Aviation Administration
    • United States House of Representatives
    • United States Senate

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