DHS Aims for Global Aviation Security Resolution

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to continue to win regional aviation security agreements through the rest of the year to build to a global aviation security resolution in the fall, the secretary said in a forum sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

Since the attempted Christmas Day bombing by terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of a US-bound flight, Napolitano has traveled the world in search of regional agreements to strengthen aviation security standards.

"We must use the attempt on Christmas Day as a catalyst to lift aviation security standards across the globe," Napolitano asserted.

So with the assistance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, the secretary and other officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have struck agreements to accomplish that goal.

In January, Napolitano met with European ministers in Spain to establish the Toledo Declaration. In February, officials in the Western Hemisphere joined Napolitano in Mexico to agree to the Mexico City Declaration. In March, Asian nations signed a Tokyo Declaration. Then in April, African nations came together at Napolitano’s request in Nigeria to sign the Abuja Declaration.

Napolitano soon will meet with ministers in the Middle East in the hopes of striking a similar aviation security agreement.

Ultimately, the goal is to build consensus for a global aviation security resolution by the time of a general assembly of ICAO in Montreal, Canada, Sept. 28-Oct. 8.

After the ICAO meeting, DHS would support a series of implementation sessions to bring security experts up to speed on the new aviation security standards globally by the time of a world security conference in February 2011, Napolitano announced.

Some nations have taken actions recently to elevate aviation security standards under the new agreements, the secretary said. For example, the United Kingdom has created its first-ever no-fly list for air passenger screening. Canada has contributed money to ICAO to fund the organization’s abilities to meet its obligations under the regional aviation agreements.

The goals of the regional aviation agreements–and eventually the global resolution–include better information collection and sharing, stronger cooperation on deployment of screening technologies like advanced imaging technology (AIT), and the modernization of aviation security standards globally, Napolitano said.

Domestically, the United States also is moving forward on those three elements to strengthen aviation security, she emphasized.

As Abdulmutallab did not appear on the US no-fly list, the intelligence community has been reviewing processes for placing candidates on the list.

"DHS has input into those watchlists, but I want to step back and say we are primarily a consumer of those watchlists. As you may recall, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did not appear on the selectee or no-fly lists when he appeared to fly in Lagos [Nigeria] and when he transferred flights in Amsterdam. That was a mistake. He should have been on one of those lists," Napolitano stated.

DHS is working with intelligence agencies to improve who appears on the lists and it also is pushing more information overseas before passengers board US-bound airplanes.

To address the need for improved screening technology and procedures, the Obama administration has requested $900 million in fiscal 2011 for AIT devices, more federal air marshals, and more canine teams at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

"The AIT technology is the next wave of technology. It objectively improves our ability to detect the type of explosive that was going to be used on Christmas Day as well as other dangerous objects such as gels that do not set off a standard magnetometer," Napolitano commented.

The United States plans to deploy 450 AIT devices domestically by the end of the year and more than 1,000 throughout US airports by the end of 2011.

Napolitano delivered her remarks at the National Chamber Foundation’s Annual Aviation Summit, which was sponsored by the nonprofit arm of the US Chamber of Commerce to encourage dialogue on aviation issues.

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