"Aviation Security Technology Symposium"
Jane F. Garvey, Atlantic City, NJ
November 28, 2001

Thank you Tom Jensen and the National Safe Skies Alliance for putting this conference together. This symposium was planned before the terrorist attacks, but, we need this conference now more than ever.

The challenges we now face in aviation security have never been greater. We need to exploit technology — further develop explosive detection capabilities — and aggressively expand our exploration of new technologies. We should consider every available tool. Your job as aviation security professionals has never been more important. We need your expertise and we need your commitment.

For each of us in aviation the events of September 11 were especially painful. Our professional lives are tied to aviation in so many ways — the use of airplanes as weapons was not just an attack on our nation, it was an assault on everything good we know aviation to be.

Before September 11, civil aviation was the sound — it was the symbol of commerce. We knew with certainty that aviation built economies — tied the world together — improved our quality of life. On September 11, terrorists turned tools of commerce — they turned instruments of unity — into weapons of hate. What we saw on September 11 was new — and it was devastating.

For each of us — government and private sector alike — the attacks challenged long-held assumptions. They changed the way we view national security and aviation security. They reordered our priorities.

It is a new world for this industry and our nation. But in a column written shortly after the attacks, Thomas Friedman reminds us that —“unable to actually imprison us, these terrorists want us to imprison ourselves.” We must — each of us — do what needs to be done to ensure that does not happen. We need to act swiftly — and confidently — to reassure our citizens that air travel remains one of the safest and most secure forms of transportation ever devised. Safety and security aboard commercial aircraft must be unquestioned.

The President took a major step last week to reassure air travelers when he signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law. This bill is a major milestone in the creation of a consistent, high-quality, nationwide aviation security force.

I commend the congressional leaders who came together on this legislation, in the Senate —especially Chairman Hollings and Senators Hutchison and McCain — and in the House of Representatives — Chairman Don Young and Chairman Mica.

Aviation security, which had teen the responsibility of the airlines, will become a direct federal responsibility, overseen by a new undersecretary of transportation for security. Importantly for all Americans, the Transportation Security Administration will also develop improved security measures across all modes of transportation.

We at the FAA will do our part. Furthermore, we are confident that technology can play a stronger, more vital role in aviation security. Earlier this year, the FAA established a working group with other federal agencies to accelerate the study of integrating biometrics into airport security systems. We’ve already seen individual airports and airlines take the lead on testing these technologies — including iris scanning, hand geometry, and facial recognition systems — but we needed a clear view of the technology, its capabilities, and the best way to apply it.

The working group, co-chaired by the Department of Defense Counterdrug Technology Development Program Office, concluded that, “the biometrics industry is on the threshold of providing a major infusion of new technology.”

Yes, it is. The working group identified four areas in which mature and proven biometrics can be used to improve aviation security:

  • One, employee identity verification and access authorization to secured areas within an airport.
  • Two, protection of airport public areas through surveillance.
  • Three, passenger protection and identity verification.
  • And, four, air crew identity verification.

As we move to improve aviation security, we recognize that there are a host of technologies available — from explosives detection to backscatter technologies to biometrics and more. Developing the technology is one thing. Successful and timely implementation — as well as efficient use — are also key considerations. And, we must be ever mindful of the importance of the human element. Vigilance. Competence. Leadership. Technology cannot be a substitute for these critical and fundamental elements of effective security.

We’ve received thousands of ideas and suggestions on how to improve security. We tasked our security research and advisory committee to evaluate these ideas. We want to identify the technologies that can be deployed quickly. The new security law requires the 100 percent screening of all checked bags within 60 days.

What technologies can be deployed to assist us in achieving that goal? What technologies are available as tools to help secure airports — biometrics should be a part of that — and how quickly can we develop emerging technologies?

As we move ahead, we must keep in mind that there is probably no one solution. Just as we build a number of redundancies in our air traffic control and aircraft systems, we must look at these technologies to build layers of security. Technology alone will not be the only answer. This is why the new legislation recommends taking a systems approach to integrating new technologies and procedures at demonstration airports. This is a sound approach to assess how technology, procedures, screener and passenger interaction work together to improve security and ease passenger and cargo movement in airport terminals.

We should see what works well in a real-world environment — at limited locations — before we expand it across all airports. We’ve requested funding to proceed with these demonstrations as part of the FAA’s supplemental appropriation. And, the new law authorizes several pilot programs to test technologies in at least 20 airports.

In the past two months, we have taken significant steps to tighten security. We are sharing information across key government agencies. We are increasing employee background checks. We are pushing hard to get the technology and the procedures in place to help us meet the goal of screening every bag, every passenger, every airport employee.

At airports, new measures include limiting carry-on items, reducing access points, additional random searches throughout airports, positive identification for all passengers, and increasing the use of explosive detection and explosive trace equipment. In addition, we are requiring all airport and airline employees with access to secured areas of the airport to undergo background checks, have ID’s reissued, and have the ID’s compared with “watch lists.”

For aircraft, we significantly increased the number of Federal Air Marshals. At the same time, we called for airlines to reinforce cockpit doors. The major airlines have already completed this work. Right now, they are taking advantage of the $20 million dollar fund Secretary Mineta created to test any new technology that leads to safer, more secure aircraft.

Each of these steps represents the right measures, but they are not the only measures. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to focus on the consistent application of our security directives. As the President has said, we will not falter and we will not fail. We will stay focused on this most important assignment.

Americans have long known that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Now, we know, it is the price of mobility as well.

There are times when it is quite possible to feel overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem. But there are good lessons in history. I’m reminded of what Doris Kearns Goodwin said about what Roosevelt’s challenges in 1940. With war approaching, the U.S. had virtually no military capacity — we became the 17th largest military power only after Holland surrendered to Germany. We had only 500,000 soldiers compared with six million in the German army. Roosevelt understood he had to mobilize an isolationist country and move from a peacetime economy to a wartime economy. His first step was to reach out to the business community with whom he had endured hostile relationships in the 1930s. He knew government couldn’t build the tanks, the weapons, the planes, the ships — only business could. He forged perhaps the most extraordinary government – business partnership ever and created a miracle of industrial proportions.

There was a sense of urgency then. We have the same urgency now. We need to exploit technology. We need to improve security. We need to do it now. And we will.