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Transportation Security Mission Is 'Far From Over,' Agency Head Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2002 - The year-old Transportation Security Administration first focused on ma, Dec. 9, 2002 – The year-old Transportation Security Administration first focused on making the skies safer for the American public after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but much more needs to be done, the agency's acting director said here today.

The now 50,000-member TSA is soon to be "intertwined" with 22 other agencies with the March 1, 2003, start-up of the Department of Homeland Security. It will continue to protect the nation's air transportation system, ports, railways and buslines, retired Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy, TSA director, said to a homeland security conference audience here.

Loy, undersecretary of transportation for security and a former Coast Guard commandant, noted that TSA would fall under the Homeland Security Department's border and transportation security section. With more than 150,000 employees, the section would comprise the largest portion of the department's 170,000 total employees, he pointed out. TSA has achieved much in a year, Loy noted. In the days and weeks after Sept. 11, he remarked, TSA received a priority mandate from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to safeguard commercial aviation's 429 airports and associated operations.

On Nov. 19, he said, 40,000 highly trained federal baggage screeners replaced contract screeners previously used at the nation's airports. And, he added, come Dec. 31, all baggage carried aboard commercial aircraft will be screened for explosive devices.

That, he remarked, represents "amazing progress" in such a short period of time.

However, he emphasized that TSA's achievements will continue into the future, promising "continuous improvement" of the agency's security systems and administrative operations as it becomes a part of DHS.

"Please challenge us … to do things better," he told his audience, adding that if improvements to the nation's transportation security systems aren't made, then "the bad guys" will take advantage of it.

Loy looks forward to securing better airport screening equipment and to enrolling passengers who fly frequently in a voluntary identification system program. Frequent fliers who sign up would clear security more quickly, he said.

Also, Loy envisions that pilots, mechanics, drivers, maritime dockworkers, and ships' crews would eventually undergo special security checks and receive biometric credentialing (iris scans, fingerprint checks) in order to access the nation's airports and ports.

Efficiency gained from such a system means credentialed persons could be issued just one ID card, rather than the up to the 23 IDs now provided to some transportation employees in critical security positions, he said.

Loy maintained the bottom line is, it's more than appropriate to improve the nation's internal security system for the next generation of Americans.

"There is no more important work being done," he concluded.

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