bill emphasizes training; streamlines background checks
By Bonnie Wilson
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
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.
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!
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?
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.
addition to a final rule, the Administrator is to prescribe
minimum training standards for security screeners that
include at least 40 hours of classroom or the equivalent
that will allow an individual to show an acceptable
level of proficiency. This must be followed by 40 hours
of on-the-job training and an on-the-job training examination.
this system will allow security companies to train individuals
in the manner most appropriate for the job, but at the
same time ensure that a proficiency standard is met
system-wide. It is believed that instituting proficiency
standards will raise the value of employees with the
skills necessary to pass these tests, increase employee
retention trends, and improve the screening process
that all the technology in the world is irrelevant if
the humans interfacing with it override the control
mechanisms, the section of the Act relating to improved
access control measures focuses on individual compliance.
The Act calls on FAA to publish a list of sanctions
for use ?as guidelines in the discipline of employees
for infractions of access control requirements?. To
ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities,
airports and air carriers will also be required to implement
comprehensive and recurrent training programs that teach
employees their role in providing security. Those who
get it right are to be rewarded; those who don?t are
to be subject to sanctions.
air carriers, and screening companies will be required
to include a section in their security programs that
addresses sanctions for individual non-compliance. Sanctions
are to range from remedial training on rules and procedures
to suspension from security duties, to suspension from
all duties without pay, to finally termination of employment.
EXPLOSIVES DETECTION SYSTEMS
Idle hands and idle explosive detection systems (EDS) are addressed as well. The Computer Assisted Passen-ger Pre-screening System (CAPPS) selects passengers whose baggage is to be subject to EDS screening prior to boarding. Passengers selected either meet the criteria established under CAPPS or are randomly selected. The FAA, IG, and GAO have noted that the EDS equipment supplied to the air carriers may be ?underutilized? in certain locations as CAPPS does not generate enough selectees to keep the machines in constant use. The Act seeks to improve utilization figures by imposing an additional ?manual pro-cess? to add an additional random selection to the CAPPS random selection.
Theoretically, this would improve the deterrent of EDS screening, increase the proficiency of the EDS operator, and increase the overall number of bags screened prior to loading. Manual random selection raises its own concerns, as it is essential that persons who are selected for EDS screening are not singled out in a prejudicial manner.