U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today applauded the Senate’s adoption of his amendment to S. 2658, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016, which is currently pending in the Senate. Thune’s amendment, which includes a separate Thune-led and committee-approved bill, would take important steps toward protecting the traveling public and tightening the vetting process for airport workers who have access to secure areas. The amendment passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 85-10.
“Events around the world and security lapses at U.S. airports necessitate new protections for the traveling public,” said Thune. “Keeping Americans safe from future attacks is a top priority in this Senate. In addition to defeating ISIS abroad and controlling our borders, we must enact effective measures to secure our homeland. The security measures now included in the FAA bill are a strong step toward that goal.”
The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the nation’s transportation system, including security agencies like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). As chairman of the Commerce Committee, Thune is the lead sponsor and bill manager of S. 2658.
Highlights of the bipartisan Thune amendment to S. 2658:
Addressing the “inside threat” of terrorism – Many experts believe an ISIS attack on a Russian flight leaving Egypt had help from an aviation employee. The amendment includes S. 2361, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act, which enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas. It also expands the use of random and physical inspections of airport employees in secure areas and requires a review of perimeter security. Click here for more information about provisions included in the amendment from S. 2361, which was previously approved by the Commerce Committee.
Safeguarding passengers in non-secure airport areas – The March 22 ISIS attack on the Brussels airport underscored how concentrations of passengers in areas of airports accessible without screening can be a target for terrorists. The amendment includes H.R. 2843, the TSA PreCheck Enhancement Act, which seeks to reduce crowds waiting for security screening by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints quickly. Provisions require the TSA to seek private sector partners for marketing the program and processing applications for public enrollment while also ensuring that PreCheck screening lanes are open during high-volume travel times. Both the Commerce Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2843.
Securing international flights bound for the U.S. – Some international airports abroad operating non-stop flights to U.S. airports lack the security equipment and expertise of U.S. and other state-of-the-art airports. Taking provisions from H.R. 4698, legislation previously approved by the House Homeland Security Committee, this amendment authorizes TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S., permits increased cooperation between U.S. officials and partner nations to protect routes flown by Americans, and requires a new assessment of foreign cargo security programs.
Full text of the Thune amendment is available here.
For more information about S. 2658, visit www.commerce.senate.gov/faa.