Improving Security

Improving Security Hutchison bill emphasizes training; streamlines background checks By Bonnie Wilson November 2000 The bill addresses criminal history records checks, crimes that bar employment in security positions at...


Improving Security

Hutchison bill emphasizes training; streamlines background checks

By Bonnie Wilson

November 2000

The bill addresses criminal history records checks, crimes that bar employment in security positions at airports, training of personnel, secured area access control, and utilization of explosive detection equipment. The bill now resides with the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Of primary importance to all parties in the aviation industry is the section on criminal history records checks. Under the current regulations, applicants for unescorted access to secure areas of an airport must undergo an employment history records check. This check requires potential employees to submit records of their employment for the ten years prior to application for unescorted access. If these records are incomplete, then and only then is the applicant requested to supply a full set of fingerprints to be submitted to the FBI to ensure that they have not committed one of the ?disqualifying crimes? enumerated in the regulation.

The FAA, airports, and the FBI are currently testing a method by which fingerprints can be transmitted to the FBI through electronic means. This electronic transmission would significantly reduce the delay associated with these checks. Senator Hutchison?s bill calls for an expansion of the current test to an ?aviation industry-wide program? that will require a fingerprint check of all applicants for unescorted access within two years of the enactment of the Act, not just those applicants with incomplete records.

AN EXPANDED LIST OF DISQUALIFYING CRIMES
At first glance this may seem to be an onerous burden to place on employers, but viewed in the context of the entire background investigation procedure required today, it would actually significantly reduce cost and delays. Imagine: no more paperwork collection on applicants; no more verification of all the positions the applicant has held in the past ten years; no more annual audits of the ten years of paperwork collected on applicants. Instead, one simple test. Submit your prints; if you pass the test, you?re hired!

While the test is simpler to implement, the Act does raise the bar by expanding the list of disqualifying crimes. Recent criminal investigations and audits by the General Accounting Office and the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General have shown that the current list of ?disqualifying crimes? doesn?t go far enough to protect aviation interests. Employees with access to aircraft have been willing to place sealed packages on airplanes because they ?believe? or have been told the package is contraband other than explosives. What if they?re wrong?

The Act expands the current list of disqualifying crimes to include: felony involving threat; willful destruction of property; importation or manufacture of a controlled substance; burglary, theft, dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation; possession or distribution of stolen property; aggravated assault; and bribery. Further, it includes ?illegal possession of a controlled substance punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than one year, or any other crime classified as a felony that the Administrator determines indicates a propensity for placing contraband aboard an aircraft in return for money.?

EMPHASIS ON TRAINING
To ensure that the caliber of employees providing security for the aviation system is raised, the bill goes on to dictate training standards for those who provide the first line of defense: security screeners. First, the Act instructs FAA to finalize the regulation on certification of screening companies by May 31, 2001. This regulation will set the standards for those companies that wish to be eligible to provide aviation security screening.

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