This month’s terrorist attack quickly made airline security a federal priority, forcing the U.S. government to investigate ways to improve the nationwide airport security system.
One suggestion, gaining broad bi-partisan support, would federalize the entire national airline security system.
Last week state Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, publicly urged Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation to support changes which would improve airline safety, including federalization.
“You need federal funding to be able to sustain this current level of security,” Walker said.
Walker said federalization is also necessary because the solution cannot be dealt with on a state-by-state basis.
“It doesn’t do a whole lot of good if one state has good security, if other states don’t,” Walker said.
Neil Wright, a spokesperson for Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., said he would consider supporting federalizing the security system, although Congress should examine all available options.
“One other possibility, as is done in Frankfort, Germany, would give the airport as a whole the responsibility to manage security for the entire facility, which would be easier to regulate,” Wright said.
Another proposal under consideration would allow airline pilots to voluntarily arm themselves with a special type of handgun. These guns would be loaded with bullets that shatter upon impact, meaning they would not be able to break through the plane’s fuselage or windows.
The federal government is also rebuilding its sky marshal program in an effort to provide greater security for planes in the air. The program would discreetly equip the marshals, disguised as regular passengers, with similar handguns to prevent any future hijackings.
Wright said Congress should seriously consider these specific proposals.
“Most pilots are former military people, so if they are trained in the use of firearms it might be helpful,” Wright said. “We need to keep an open mind.”
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is proposing additional legislation allowing certified law-enforcement and health officials to volunteer on board airplanes to provide assistance during emergency situations.
“As we move toward solutions like sky marshals and tighter airport security, this bill will provide one additional way to help make our skies safer, while at the same time making it easier for our police officers and firefighters to serve their country,” Feingold said.
Another recommendation suggests installing impenetrable doors on airplanes between the cockpit and cabin. During a hijacking situation, the pilot would be able to lock the door from the inside to deter a terrorist takeover of the plane.
The Transportation Department is currently reviewing airline security throughout the country. The results of the investigation will be released next Monday.
While President Bush is visiting Chicago Thursday, he is expected to announce additional airline security measures he feels should be taken. Until then, many members of Congress will not publicly announce their position on what needs to be done.
“We want this to be done quickly, but we want it to be done right,” said Chris Tuttle, a spokesperson for Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis. “We’re waiting to see what the administration recommends, but until then we’re not ruling anything out.”
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said she agreed Congress must wait until those recommendations are public to decide on the next step. However, she said Congress should support increased measures, including federalizing the national airline security system.
Baldwin also wanted to reassure her constituents about the safety of air travel in our country, despite the recent attack.
“[Baldwin] feels it is unlikely there will be a strike in the same manner, but believes we still need to take additional step to provide safety in the air,” said Baldwin spokesperson Jerilyn Goodman.