Category Archives: Public Safety and Security

Obama’s Travel and Tourism Initiatives Follow ACI-NA’s Requests

By Channon Hanna
On Thursday, President Obama travelled to Walt Disney World in Orlando to announce new initiatives to increase travel and tourism to the United States.  Among the initiatives announced were visa reform, Global Entry expansion and promotion, and the expansion of the visa waiver program— all of which are key reforms that ACI-NA has advocated for years and has worked to advance through the ACI-NA Facilitation Committee, the U.S. International Air Service Program and the U.S Government Affairs Committee.  ACI-NA President Greg Principato also sent a letter to President Obamacommending these initiatives.

In front of Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World, President Obama on Thursday announced his new initiatives to increase travel and tourism.

During his address, President Obama reminded the audience that the U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. gross domestic product and employment, representing 2.7 percent of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010.  The President emphasized that these initiatives are a part of the administration’s comprehensive effort to help spur job creation.

Highlights of the initiatives include:

  • Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent in 2012.
    • As a part of this initiative, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as persons applying for visa renewals.
  • Ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applications are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
  • Increasing the efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in program.
    • The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for participation in the program.
  • Final Rule on the Global Entry program which will make it permanent and expand the program to four additional airports — Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix.  This expansion would mean expedited clearance would be available to approximately 97 percent of international travelers. ACI-NA submitted comments to the administration in support of making the Global Entry program permanent.

These initiatives by the President are a great start to increasing international visitors to the United States. ACI-NA will continue to work with the administration and Congress to develop strategies which will enhance the security and the efficiency of the international arrivals process and attract international visitors to the United States.

Living in Limbo Land

By Jane Calderwood

I’m waiting for courage
Cause I’m stuck
Limbo limbo limbo
Cause I’m stuck in limbo limbo
And I ain’t trying to be stuck no more

(JoJo “Limbo“)

It is time once again for a lesson in Washington math:

22 extensions + 14 day FAA Shutdown + 9 years since the last FAA bill became law + 6 extensions covering 2011 alone + 5 years without an authorization + 2 month average extension in 2011 divided by  the 6 days the House is in session in January + the 7 days Senate is in session for 7 days in January = Limbo

Limbo, according to the dictionary, means “a state of oblivion; a state in which somebody or something is neglected or is simply left in oblivion”. This neatly sums up the current state of affairs involving the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill.

And, this state of affairs has got to end. ACI-NA President Greg Principato called on Congress in August at the end of the FAA shutdown and again last week to end the FAA’s stay in purgatory by passing a two-year extension of the FAA reauthorization upon their return to Washington later this month. Congress has more than enough practice passing FAA extensions – they accounted for 6 percent of the federal legislation signed into law last year!  Congress should pass a long term extension and study up on some other legislative issue.  I’m sure the highway folks are feeling a bit unloved and unwanted given that Congress has practically ignored them.  After all, eight extensions is a second date compared to 22 which is as good as being engaged.

Congress gives up nothing by passing a two-year extension. Any arguments members of congress make about the need to “keep the pressure on” simply don’t hold water. If the ups and downs and teetering on the edge of the first 22 extensions didn’t exert enough pressure; if shutting down the federal agency responsible for aviation safety for 14 days while allowing $300 million to slip into the pockets of the airlines instead of being added to the Aviation Trust Fund didn’t exert enough pressure, than a mere two years certainly isn’t going to matter.

Two years, however, gives airports stability and the ability to plan without having any impact on Congress’ ability to pass a final bill.  Although if we take history into account, it could be that two years is not long enough.

Attendees Told Aging EDS Devices Will Need to be Replaced in 2013

By Christopher Bidwell
This afternoon at the ACI-NA Annual Conference airport representatives and attendees heard a presentation and had an opportunity to engage in a dialogue on the latest TSA security technology initiatives from Robin Kane, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Security Capabilities.

As part of a recently announced re-alignment at TSA, the Office of Security Capabilities was expanded to include the Office of Security Technology and key elements of other offices that directly support the operation, maintenance and strategic utilization of technology to enhance security.

Of importance to airports, almost half of the Explosive Detection Systems deployed at airports to screen checked baggage in the years after September 11, will reach the end of their useful life by 2013, and two-thirds of those systems within the next five years. To address the need for replacement or “recapitalization” of EDS systems, TSA is developing a strategic plan that will prioritize the recapitalization of systems based upon their operational reliability. Those with the lowest reliability will be at the top of the list. Another aspect of replacing EDS systems is optimization, making enhancements to improve efficiency, which may involve modification of the baggage handling system and replacing systems with other high-speed units. Although TSA will typically cover the cost of recapitalization programs, airports may incur a percentage of the costs for optimization projects.

With the recent procurement of 300 Advanced Imaging Technology units, which have the Automated Target Recognition software preloaded, deployment to airports is expected to begin later this year and continue into 2012. With ATR, a stick-figure image of the individual being screened is displayed on a screen mounted on the side of the unit, making separate rooms for image operators unnecessary.

Also at security checkpoints, TSA has started to deploy Advanced Technology 2 X-ray systems. These systems include separate viewing stations for alarm resolution, which should help to increase throughput.

ACI-NA and the Public Safety & Security Committee continues to works closely with the Office of Security Capabilities to ensure technology deployment is coordinated with airports.

Lawyers Get a Briefing on Airport Security Issues

By Monica Hargrove
Airport Security—at the checkpoint as well as at the border—Are there cameras at your security checkpoint? What concerns do they raise? Are there cameras at other places at your airport? What are the privacy concerns? What are the notice requirements? What issues do airport lawyers need to be prepared to address?

Our panelists:

  • Francine Kerner, Chief Counsel, Transportation Security Administration, a frequent guest speaker at ACI-NA’s Legal Committee meetings;
  • Joanne M. Halley Office of Associate Chief Counsel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Los Angeles Office;
  • Professor Chris Guzelian, who teaches Constitutional Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

The title of the session is fairly comprehensive in explaining what the panelists will be discussing. In addition to a discussion of these issues from a TSA security checkpoint perspective, we will also have the opportunity to compare and contrast how Customs and Border Protection operations addresses these issues. We will also have an academic perspective on Constitutional rights of privacy concerning airport security.

ACI-NA Commends TSA for Rollout of PreCheck Program

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), which represents the owners and operators of airports throughout the United States, today issued a statement in response to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) launch of PreCheck, a risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger screening pilot program with American Airlines at Dallas/Fort Worth International and Miami International airports, and Delta Air Lines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airports.

Statement of ACI-NA President Greg Principato:

“Airport officials have long advocated for this type of risk-based approach to airport security that focuses limited screening resources on those about which the least is known. We believe the program will help in the development of a sustainable system that balances enhanced security with improved customer service. Today’s launch of the PreCheck Program gets us one step closer to looking for bad people, not bad things.”

Principato continued, “ACI-NA and airports look forward to working with TSA and the airlines to further expand this risk-based screening program to additional airports as soon as possible.”