Aviation security professionals discuss concerns and best practices
By Lindsay M. Hitch
SAN FRANCISCO — The Airport Security Summit brings together representatives of government, trade associations, airlines, and airports large and small, in a cooperative forum to relay security troubles and successes. Here, a synopsis of the summit’s high points.
BLURRING THE LINES
The new FAR Part 107 and 108 have been said to blur the lines between airports and air carriers, and industry reps say that’s a good thing.
"There’s no distinction between the airport and the air carrier. It’s everybody providing security together," says Bonnie Wilson, vice president of airport facilities and services for Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA). "Who’s ultimately responsible should be less of an issue than reaching the goal."
In keeping with that sense of overlapping responsibilities, Wilson says, "We’d like to work harder on the exchange of information. As we all try to do our jobs, the best way to do it is to work with the facts, not the stories, not the anecdotes, but rather the information."
ACI-NA is reportedly working with FAA and other organizations to compile a database of best practices: which systems work, which programs work, which training elements fix the problem, etc.
FAA’s strategic plan
The public version of the strategic security plan is available at www.faa.gov under the Security button.
To help in reaching that goal, FAA has
taken a systematic approach to determining the types and scenarios for
potential aviation security threats. Quinten Johnson, deputy director
of security policy and planning, explains that 26 potential threats were
recently determined by the FAA, as mandated by Congress. Including a vehicle
bomb in front of the terminal, assault on a checkpoint, and complex improvised
explosive devices in checked bag walk-aways, those threats were then ranked
by the likelihood of terrorist success.
Recognizing that each of those scenarios has variations resulting in different outcomes, the FAA broke the threats down into components. Domestic versus international flights, a complex improvised explosive device versus a dynamite bomb, bags selected for screening versus those not selected: the variations are all detected and dealt with differently. After considering the components, Johnson says the 26 basic scenarios became 109 variants.
Once the threats were exposed, the National Research Council asked FAA to quantify the threats, assigning relative risk factors to each variant. The threats were then evaluated, says Johnson, for target attractiveness, probability of occurrence, likelihood of occurrence, and probability of success.
"The key to this," says Johnson, "[is] what do we have in their way? Our detailed plans were analyzed to see what do we have to put in front of that vulnerability?"
"We’re firm believers in physical deterrence and in enhancing security screening," says Rich Davis, manager of operational security for United Airlines.
"It’s a new phenomenon, putting these big machines and the new technologies into our airports nationwide. We have put them in visible positions wherever we could. And this is a big item and deterrent to the bad guy," Davis concludes.
Industry reps emphasize that the appearance of a tight security system can go a long way. People attempt crimes because they believe they can pull them off, they say.
"The minute we let them realize there are gaps in the system and that everybody isn’t watching, then there is going to be a problem," says Wilson. "And it’s going to be an after-the-effect problem; it’s going to be after the crisis that people jump back on the bandwagon. Each and every one of you has created a baseline that makes someplace else a more attractive target."
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