Press Releases

Warner, Kaine Amend FAA Reauthorization Bill to Strengthen Security at Virginia Airports

In the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, new measures will increase presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines & direct Homeland Security funding to enhance security in “soft” target areas at airports, such as check-in and baggage claim areas

Apr 07 2016

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with several of their Senate Democratic colleagues, secured an amendment to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) reauthorization bill to strengthen U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure “soft” target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas. The amendment was approved by a strong, bipartisan vote of 91-5.

The legislation, which comes after the recent wave of terror attacks in Europe, would also update federal security programs to provide active shooter training for law enforcement and increase the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines at these non-secure areas.

“With more than 40 million travelers passing through Dulles International and Reagan National each year, it’s critical that we tighten up security in vulnerable areas like check-in and baggage claim,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “In the wake of the recent attacks in Brussels, this is an important step forward in making our airports safer.”

Washington Dulles International and Reagan National, located in Northern Virginia, are two of North America’s most trafficked airports.  In 2015, 44.69 million domestic and international passengers traveled through Dulles and Reagan. Sens. Warner and Kaine have supported additional funds for federal, state and local preparedness grant programs, which support critical security investments at transportation hubs in the Commonwealth.

Specifically, the Senate Democratic amendment that the full Senate passed today in the FAA reauthorization will:

1.      Expand and Enhance Visible Deterrents (VIPR teams)

The Senate Democratic measure doubles the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from 30 to as many as 60 and add their operations to non-sterile areas of an airport, such as outside of a check point, to enhance “soft target” security. These VIPR teams promote confidence in and protect the nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement capabilities at transit hubs, including airports and subways, and National Special Security Events (NSSEs).  TSA works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy these teams based on threat levels and other security priorities.  VIPR Teams consist of a variety of operational assets that include Law Enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel. They are recognizable to the American public because the teams often include bomb-sniffing canines.  TSA VIPR deployments are coordinated with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and industry security partners throughout the United States.

 2.      Provide New Funding for Law Enforcement Training Active Shooter Incidents

The Senate Democratic measure will create a new eligible use under SHSGP/UASI funding for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents at public locations, including airports, mass transit systems and other “soft target” areas. Currently, 25 percent of Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program funds are used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities. However, there is no explicit authorization for those funds to be used for training exercises for active shooter incidents events at public locations.

3.      Strengthen Airport and Mass Transit Security in Non-Secure Areas

The Senate Democratic measure authorizes and makes explicit that State Homeland security funding grants (SHSGP / UASI) can be used for airport and surface transportation security in non-secure “soft” areas.