U.S Believes Terrorists Still Pose Aviation Threat
U.S. Believes Terrorists Still Pose Threat to Civil Aviation
Shoulder-launched missiles "credible" concern, transportation security officials say
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials say they believe that terrorists will continue to consider attacks against commercial airplanes in the United States and abroad and seek new ways to circumvent enhanced security measures.
In joint November 5 testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Deputy Administrator Stephen McHale and two other TSA officials reviewed the steps their agency in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking and the technologies it plans to employ to boost aviation security and counter new threats.
The officials identified the threat from terrorists equipped with shoulder-launched missiles, called man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), as one of "credible concern." They said that MANPADS are "widely" available on black or gray markets around the world and that even an unsuccessful MANPAD attack on a commercial airliner would have a "devastating" economic and political impact.
"This is a serious and complex issue with no single solution," they said.
The U.S. military has already started using an anti-MANPAD system, they said. But if that or a similar system is to be applied in the civil aviation, it has to be more affordable, reliable, safe and effective, they added.
The officials said TSA expects to select two private sector proposals on MANPAD countermeasures in 2004 and test the one or two most promising prototypes later.
They said that cargo security on passenger planes also is a "concern." TSA has focused its efforts in this area on a procedure that would involve pre-screening and identifying "high-risk" cargo for more intense scrutiny as well as creating a database of known shippers, the officials said. As part of this procedure, cargo from unknown shippers would be banned from passenger airplanes, they added.
In May the Senate passed the bill that would require TSA to develop a strategic plan for screening air cargo and inspecting both cargo itself and cargo shipping facilities.
Cargo in airline holds and air cargo planes was not covered by the aviation security bill passed by Congress in 2001 following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
The TSA officials also commented on efforts to improve and streamline screening of air passengers including a computer-assisted passenger prescreening system known as CAPPS II, to develop more effective explosive-detection technologies and to create uniform credentials for transportation workers.
(Note: The following abbreviations are used repeatedly in the text:
CAPPS -- computer-assisted passenger prescreening
DIRCM -- direct infrared countermeasures,
DOD -- Department of Defense,
EDS -- explosive detection system,
ETD -- explosive trace detection,
FAA -- Federal Aviation Administration,
FAM -- federal air marshals,
FFDO -- federal flight deck officers,
FDS -- federal security directors,
LAIRCM -- large aircraft infrared countermeasures,
LOI -- letter of intent,
MANPADS -- man-portable air defense systems,
PNR -- passenger name record,
SOP -- standard operating procedures,
TIP -- threat image projection system,
TRXs -- TIP-ready x-ray machines,
TWIC -- transportation worker identification credential,
WTMD -- walk-through metal detectors.)
Following is the text of their testimony as submitted for the committee's record:
US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation
Given at a Full Committee Hearing: Aviation
November 5 2003
The Testimony of Mr. Stephen
Deputy Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
DR. PENROSE C. ALBRIGHT ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PLANS, PROGRAMS, BUDGETS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE
STEPHEN J. MCHALE DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
WILLIAM H. PARRISH ACTING ASSOCIATE SECRETARY INFORMATION ANALYSIS AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION DIRECTORATE ON CIVIL AVIATION SECURITY
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Senator Hollings, and Members of the Committee. On behalf of Secretary Ridge [Tom Ridge, secretary of homeland security], representatives of the Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP), the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are pleased to appear before you to discuss important improvements in civil aviation security. Our joint written statement will cover a wide variety of topics related to aviation security, and we are available to answer your questions in a closed and open forum.
Secretary Ridge and all of us at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appreciate the continued support that DHS has received from this Committee and the unwavering commitment of the Members to our mission to protect the homeland from terrorism, particularly our transportation systems and critical infrastructure. This is a vast undertaking that requires advancements in technology, improved intelligence, a dedicated workforce, a substantial financial commitment, the cooperation of industry and the American public, and hard work by all.
Understanding the Threat to Aviation Security
We believe that terrorists will continue to consider attacks against commercial aircraft in the United States and abroad likely intending to employ suicide hijackings and bombings as the most promising methods to destroy aircraft in flight, as well as to strike ground targets. Likely cognizant of changes in aviation security measures since September 11, 2001, they will seek out new ways to circumvent enhancements in aviation security screening and tightening immigration requirements. Additionally, the threat posed by terrorists equipped with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) is of credible concern. Indeed, the unsuccessful missile attack on an Israeli commercial airliner in Mombasa, Kenya, in November 2002 was a stark reminder of the threat posed by terrorists possessing MANPADS. MANPADS are widely available on black or gray markets around the world. Even an unsuccessful MANPADS attack on a commercial airliner would have a devastating economic and political impact. As you can well imagine, this is a serious and complex issue with no single solution. It is an issue of concern to the security of the homeland because MANPADS are relatively easy to operate and are small enough that they can be concealed in a vehicle.
It's important to note that the U.S. intelligence community does not have any credible, specific intelligence information about planned MANPADS attacks against commercial aircraft in the United States. MANPADS generally do not pose a threat to commercial aircraft while flying at cruising altitude. They pose the greatest threat while aircraft are landing or taking off from airports.
Continually Striving for Excellence in Aviation Security
In the 20 months since its creation, TSA has made great strides in improving civil aviation security. TSA inherited a 30-year-old passenger-screening system designed to detect obvious weapons such as guns, hunting knives, and grenades, and has transformed it into a system that also finds much smaller but still dangerous items such as razor blades. This new system is working. Since February 2002, TSA has intercepted more than 1,500 firearms and more than 54,000 box cutters. TSA screeners take pride in their work; this is not just a job but part of an important mission: to protect our Nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. However, recent events involving the smuggling of prohibited items aboard aircraft validate that our layered approach to security that cannot rely on any one system. TSA's layered system, including hardened cockpit doors, Federal Air Marshals, armed Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDO), as well as passenger and baggage screening and the National Explosives Detection Canine Program, recognizes the fact that there is no such thing as a zero failure rate for passenger screening.
We are cognizant that there is much more to do. TSA has undertaken specific initiatives that will improve screening performance, and we are formulating a plan that ranges from more robust training to increased management performance and accountability to technological improvements. In addition, we have taken immediate steps to correct internal procedures at our customer response center to identify messages of interest from a security standpoint and ensure that appropriate action is taken swiftly.
TSA, working with the Department's S&T Directorate, will begin a comprehensive review of the civil aviation security system now that two years have passed since the enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and over twelve years have passed since the enactment of the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990. This is part of our constant evaluation of the security measures we have put into place, and now we have time to consider other approaches to aviation security that may be available to us.
Today, every passenger entering the sterile area of an airport is screened by members of a highly trained force of TSA screeners. National, validated skill standards for all screeners form the foundation for an integrated system for hiring, training, certifying, and measuring performance. All screeners must demonstrate the qualifications, knowledge, skills, and aptitudes necessary to meet Federal standards and successfully perform as a transportation security screener. They receive a minimum of 40 hours of classroom instruction and 60 hours of on-the-job training. Screeners are subject to periodic proficiency assessments and unannounced performance testing. They are made aware of new threats and methods of concealment. This stands in marked contrast to the workforce responsible for U.S. airport security screening before the creation of TSA. Screeners employed by the airlines, often through contracts with private companies, received minimal training and were often poorly motivated. Contract screening forces were plagued with high rates of attrition that resulted in an average screener tenure of 4.5 months, making it all but impossible to develop and maintain the consistent level of proficiency required to ensure reliable screening.
Maintaining a high level of screener proficiency requires constant diligence. In July of this year, TSA conducted a Screener Performance Improvement Study to determine the root causes for deficiencies in screener performance. After identifying the desired level of screener performance, we gathered data from multiple sources to determine the actual, current level of performance and the root causes for the gap between desired and actual performance. Based upon this study, we have identified an array of solutions and are in the process of further evaluating and implementing them.
Two important elements of TSA's plan for screener improvement are recurrent screener training and supervisory training. Recurrent training is needed to maintain and enhance the skills of screeners, particularly in the areas of x-ray image interpretation, the search of persons, and the inspection of property. Supervisory training will enhance leadership skills in our workforce and provide the advanced technical skills needed to adequately supervise the screening process and resolve alarms.
Screeners who fail any operational test are removed from their screener duties and must complete remedial training prior to returning to duty. Remedial training includes an out brief by the Internal Affairs Agent conducting the testing and a review of all pertinent sections of the standard operating procedures (SOP) and Basic Screener Training modules. Our recurrent training program is under development, though two modules have already been delivered to the field. In the meantime, Federal Security Directors (FSDs) have been encouraged to use the training modules of the Basic Screener Course to address specific recurrent training needs. Many have done so, and others have developed their own supplementary training. Also, screeners are required to undergo weekly x-ray image interpretation training using state-of-the-art computer-based training. FSDs at airports have received the first of a series of screener performance improvement videos and more than 350 courses will be available via our new Online Learning Center or via will have access to compact discs. We are also certifying over 800 screeners and training coordinators to teach various topics at each airport.
Recently, approximately 500 of TSA's 3600 screener supervisors were enrolled in a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Graduate School Introduction to Supervision course through September. The course is being modified to specifically address airport security and will be introduced nationally this December. This course will be further tailored to meet the needs of screening supervisors, and we expect this enhanced course will be offered in March 2004. An advanced course is being developed for screener supervisors to provide them with a higher level of technical knowledge and skills.
All screeners must meet annual recertification standards, which require passenger screeners to pass an Image Certification Test, SOP [standard operating procedures] Job Knowledge Test, and Practical Skills Demonstration, and require checked baggage screeners to pass an SOP Job Knowledge Test and Practical Skills Demonstration. In addition to passing these tests, developed at the national level, FSDs will be responsible for ensuring that all screeners have a satisfactory record of performance in accordance with their individual performance management plan. Recertification for 2003-2004 began on October 1, 2003, and will run through approximately March 2004. As part of our recent rightsizing effort, approximately 28,000 screeners completed proficiency testing; we will consider successful completion of those tests to be a part of the annual recertification.
Another major initiative to improve screener performance is the implementation of an enhanced version of the Threat Image Projection System (TIP). TIP is a system that superimposes threat images on x-ray screens during actual operations and records whether or not screeners identify the threat object. This is an excellent tool for evaluating the skills of each individual screener so that we can focus directly on areas needing skill improvement. By frequently exposing screeners to images of a variety of dangerous objects, TIP provides continuous on-the-job training and immediate feedback and remediation. TIP allows supervisors to closely monitor screener performance and improvement.
TSA is expediting the replacement of approximately 1,800 conventional x-ray machines with TIP-ready x-ray machines (TRXs). We now have over 1,300 new TRXs in place.
Our TIP system is an improvement over the predecessor FAA system in several respects. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created a library of only a few hundred images, which when shared with screeners, eliminated any real test value. In contrast, we are deploying a more comprehensive library of 2,400 images. We expect the new TSA TIP image library to be deployed on all TRX machines that are in place by the end of this calendar year. Through the combination of increased deployment of TRX machines and deployment of the expanded TIP image library, we will be able to collect and analyze significant amounts of performance data that had not been previously available to us. As we continue to deploy the expanded TIP library on all TRXs, we will primarily rely on using the limited library as an on-going training tool. Once TSA has the expanded TIP library on all TRXs in place, we will collect and analyze the data for December. The analysis will allow us to establish our first, national baseline view of screener performance, as measured by TIP, using the fully expanded TIP library of 2,400 images. This baseline view will help us better understand our strengths and weaknesses, allowing us to develop and implement appropriate skill enhancement strategies.
Of course, training alone is not sufficient to sustain excellence. To improve screener performance, TSA will increase unannounced, covert testing at airports across the Nation. Through covert testing, we challenge screeners to detect threat objects at screening checkpoints and in checked baggage, using simulated terrorist threat devices and current techniques. Timely feedback on the results of these tests is provided to screeners, FSDs, and other TSA officials to drive change and improvement through modification of our SOPs, remedial training, or improving technology, as appropriate. The covert tests serve as one of many indicators of screener performance. They must be viewed in the context of a larger performance measurement system that includes individual screener TIP data, annual screener certification, supervisory oversight, the adequacy of our SOPs, and the reliability of equipment and technology. Between September 2002 and October 2003 our Office of Internal Affairs and Program Review (OIAPR) conducted 847 checkpoint and 2,737 airport security access tests, as well as computer assisted passenger prescreening (CAPPS) and checked baggage tests at 107 airports. We are conducting covert testing at over three times the annual rate of the old FAA "red teams," and our testing uses more difficult, realistic testing situations. Although TSA cannot discuss the results of our tests in detail in this setting, results have shown an improvement of approximately 10 percent from September 2002 to August 2003. This is particularly significant because the difficulty of the tests has increased over the past year. OIAPR's testing plan is designed to test all of the airports during a three year period with Category X airports tested annually, Category I and II airports tested biannually, and contract screener pilot airports tested semiannually. Additional testing may be performed by each FSD.
As part of our continual efforts to improve screener performance, airports with below-par performance on covert tests will receive special attention. Teams of industrial engineers, trainers, performance consultants, and technology and management experts will identify the causes for poor performance at these airports and work with FSDs to design and implement solutions. Follow up will include additional covert testing and FSD accountability for any continued performance deficiency. We are also exploring ways to perform controlled studies to better understand team errors, communications, and interactions among screeners and supervisors with a goal of improving the human capabilities that affect screener performance. TSA is making plans for delivering high-speed connectivity to all TSA locations within airports across the country. This will provide access to real-time training on current threats, connectivity with checked baggage areas, and will establish a foundation for planned implementations of additional administrative, surveillance, CAPPS II, and other security enhancements.
TSA works closely with S&T to develop and deploy technology that will help make our operations more effective, more efficient, less time consuming, and less costly. To help our screeners better identify explosives and weapons that an individual may attempt to carry into the cabin of an aircraft, we are testing two explosives trace detection portals that analyze the air for explosives as passengers pass through them. TSA has also established a new performance standard for walk through metal detectors (WTMD) and replaced every WTMD at all U.S. commercial airports with the latest technology. We are developing a document scanner that will detect traces of explosives on a boarding pass type document handled by a passenger. We are also evaluating "body scan" technologies, such as backscatter x-ray, millimeter wave energy analysis, and terahertz wave technology, but will not proceed with deployment on any of these technologies until sufficient safeguards are put in place to ensure the protection of passenger privacy.
We are continuing to work on identifying the next generation of explosives detection equipment for use in screening carry-on and checked baggage. We are working with the vendors of the currently deployed technology to develop enhancements to existing EDS platforms to improve alarm rates, throughput, and reliability. We are simultaneously working with new vendors to develop technologies that will enable us to detect explosives in smaller amounts than are currently established in our certification standard and will occupy a smaller footprint at already overcrowded airports. TSA is looking at new applications of X-ray, electro-magnetic, and nuclear technologies to better probe sealed containers for materials that pose a threat.
Although ATSA mandated the federalization of airport security screening, it held open the possibility that airports could return to contract screening, provided the high standards required of the Federal screening system could be met. TSA is currently operating a pilot program at five airports using private screeners that, by law, must meet all TSA eligibility, training, and performance requirements and receive pay and other benefits equal to those of TSA screeners. Beginning on November 19, 2004, any airport operator may apply to have screening performed by a contract screening company under contract with TSA. In preparation for this option, TSA recently awarded a contract to perform a rigorous comparison of the performance of pilot program screeners with that of Federal screeners, to determine the reasons for any differences, and to develop criteria for permitting airports to opt out of the Federal screening program. We will provide all relevant information to airport operators well before the November 19, 2004 date so that each airport operator can make an informed decision.
TSA is moving forward with the development of the second-generation Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II), which will help us to focus our screening resources where they will be most effective. CAPPS II is yet another layer in our system of systems to address a continuum of security threats with minimal impact on airline customers and operations. CAPPS II is intended to identify terrorists and other high-risk individuals before they board commercial airplanes. CAPPS II will conduct a risk assessment of each passenger using national security information and information provided by passengers during the reservation process—including name, date of birth, home address and home phone number, and provide a "risk score" to TSA. The "risk score" includes an "authentication score" provided by running passenger name record (PNR) data against commercial databases to indicate a confidence level in each passenger's identity. CAPPS II will be a threat-based system under the direct control of the Federal Government and will represent a major improvement over the decentralized, airline-controlled system currently in place.
In developing CAPPS II, TSA is very mindful of the rights, liberties, and freedoms that define our Nation and differentiate our society from those who seek to harm us. CAPPS II is being designed and will be built with the explicit requirement that privacy protection not become a cost of increased aviation security. CAPPS II is undergoing a rigorous course of testing and will not be implemented until it has successfully passed this test phase. TSA is cooperating fully with the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) so that GAO can issue the report called for in the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2004, by February 15, 2004. Moreover, we are committed to continuous testing, evaluation and assessment of the system that is designed to ensure compliance with privacy policies—by our own experts, independent overseers, and the public. DHS is also contemplating creation of an advisory council to review DHS programs, including CAPPS II. A Passenger Advocate will be available to work directly with individuals to help resolve problems caused by incorrect data. In addition, while we are developing CAPPS II and to ensure that concerns regarding CAPPS I are addressed, TSA has on-site customer support and supervisory personnel at U.S. airports to respond to any passenger concerns, as well as a toll-free call line and an Office of the Ombudsman at TSA headquarters. CAPPS II would not retain data on U.S. passengers who are permitted to fly. Information would be stored only for a sufficient time to assess that a U.S. traveler is who he or she claims to be and to evaluate Government information related to terrorist threats and practices. Information would not be kept after completion of the traveler's reserved itinerary, apart from a necessary audit trail that would not be searchable by passenger name or other personal identifier.
As part of its ongoing dialogue with the public on CAPPS II and related issues, DHS issued a revised Interim Final Privacy Notice, which provides information regarding CAPPS II, including the type of data that the system will review, and how the data will be used. The Notice requested public comment, and the closing date for submission of comments was September 30, 2003. We are now in the process of reviewing the many comments we received.
We are also developing the parameters for a pilot program to test key elements of the voluntary "Registered Traveler" program, including background checks, positive identification, and new checkpoint operations. We intend to test these concepts at several airports early next year. Our airline partners have expressed strong interest in working with us. TSA has begun full-scale training of pilots who have volunteered for the FFDO program in close cooperation with organizations representing many airline pilots such as the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA). We have transferred FFDO training from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) at Glynco, Georgia, to the new permanent site at FLETC's training facility in Artesia, New Mexico. The Artesia facility offers the capability to double student throughput each week, and we plan to do so in January 2004. FLETC Artesia is also the home of the basic training program of the FAMS, and thus, has training facilities specifically geared to the unique environment and circumstances present on an aircraft. TSA intends to use geographically dispersed facilities for semi-annual recertification training required of FFDOs, including private facilities. By the end of FY04 [the current fiscal year that began October 1], at the current pilot application rate, we expect to have trained the vast majority of pilots who have volunteered for the program and met the initial background requirements.
TSA has recently signed letters of intent (LOI) covering seven airports to enable them to efficiently integrate explosives detection systems with in-line baggage conveyor systems. The LOI, accompanying memorandum of agreement, and TSA-approved final system design plan collectively define the specific costs eligible for federal government reimbursement. Once the eligible reimbursement costs are identified, the federal government agrees to contribute 75 percent of those costs, while the airport invests the remaining 25 percent. We are continuing negotiations with additional airports to obtain a LOI where this makes practical and economic sense. For those airports that will not be covered by an LOI, we continue to work on screening solutions that can accommodate 100 percent electronic screening of checked baggage for explosives.
Cargo security on passenger aircraft is a concern for all of us engaged in transportation security. Proposals to require the physical inspection of every piece of cargo shipped on passenger aircraft without a risk-based targeting strategy are no more practical than similar calls to physically inspect each of the more than 6 million containers that enter the United States each year through our seaports. Proposals of this sort would simply prevent cargo from being carried on-board passenger aircraft. Rather, TSA has focused its efforts on three key components in ensuring the security of air cargo. First, cargo deemed suspicious or "high-risk" will be subjected to more intense security screening under the TSA approach. Part of this process involves banning cargo from unknown shippers from passenger aircraft, and greatly strengthening the "Known Shipper" program. Passenger air carriers, all-cargo carriers, and freight forwarders have been given added responsibility for verifying a customer's status in the Known Shipper Program. TSA performs inspections of these links in the supply chain to ensure compliance. TSA is also moving forward with the Known Shipper Database and automated Indirect Air Carrier certification/recertification. TSA plans on the full deployment of this database in FY 04. TSA is already working with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) and its National Targeting Center in the development of tools for pre-screening air cargo to determine which of it is truly high-risk. Finally, TSA will need a toolbox of inspection methodologies and technologies for inspecting high-risk cargo, as no one technology or technique can be applied in all operating environments. A combination of inspection protocols, and EDS, ETD, x-ray devices, canine explosives detection teams, or perhaps even emerging technologies will need to be made available to the field.
TSA is grateful for the cooperation that we have received from the industry through its participation in cargo working groups, an offshoot of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC). On October 1, we received 44 recommendations from these groups, covering twenty-two topic areas, including enhancements to Known Shipper program, the development of additional screening technologies, greater security of Indirect Air carriers (freight forwarders), and enhanced security measures for the all-cargo air carriers. TSA is reviewing these recommendations as part of the development of a strengthened regulatory program and the completion of the agency's strategic plan for air cargo.
Our continuing efforts to improve aviation security inevitably focus on more accurate information about people who have access to various aspects of the aviation and overall transportation system. Through our Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program, TSA is developing a uniform credentialing standard that has the potential, if necessary, to be used across transportation modes for personnel requiring unescorted physical and/or logical access to secure areas of the transportation system. Uniform credentialing standards will enhance security and make economic sense to an industry for which multiple cards and mixed standards are commonplace. On October 21st TSA concluded a technology evaluation in two regions. One was on the East Coast covering the Philadelphia-Delaware River area, and the other was on the West Coast in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area of California. The information that we glean from these technology evaluations will enable us to make key decisions about further development of this program.
TSA is focused on four key areas and related technology projects to enhance airport perimeter security: (1) security of access control through intended entry points; (2) security surveillance of perimeter areas; (3) improved security response capability to intrusions and security breaches through automated decision aids; and (4) oversight of industry compliance with current security requirements. TSA has collected and catalogued information on more than 300 applicable security technologies that include: biometrics, detection and prevention devices, surveillance technologies, and proximity sensors. Testing and evaluation of these and other technologies will be performed by TSA in partnership with airport operators who have volunteered to be participants in the 20 Airport Access Control Pilot Program. TSA hopes to select the first 5 airports and technology plans by the end of 2003. TSA also has the ability to test and evaluate these types of technologies in conjunction with the activities of the National Safe Skies Alliance at airports throughout the country.
The realization of and the response to the threat from Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) are part of our focus on perimeter security, an element of the security plan required for each airport. With the Directorate of Science and Technology (S&T) of DHS and the Department of Defense, TSA is undertaking efforts to come to a cost-effective, scientifically practical solution to the threat posed by MANPADS. Protecting civil aviation from MANPADS remains a multi-faceted undertaking—research into technical countermeasures is just one facet. Other components include enhanced security beyond the airport perimeter, non-proliferation efforts, and border and customs enforcement, all key areas that DHS, the State Department, the Defense Department, and many other agencies continue to pursue.
The Contribution and Potential of Technology to Improve Aviation Security
The Department of Homeland Security's S&T Directorate is conducting a competitive, multiple phase effort to develop countermeasures to shoulder-launched missiles that may be employed by hostile forces and terrorist groups against commercial aircraft. This S&T program, referred to as Counter-MAN Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), was initiated in 2003 to identify existing candidate technologies that could lead to an effective and affordable solution for commercial aircraft. Clearly, any acquisition plan for such countermeasures must include a cost-benefit analysis that addresses the full range of relevant issues, including efficacy, cost-effectiveness, training, and not least of all, countervailing safety considerations. Proactive discussions of all of these issues are currently ongoing between DHS, other affected agencies and private industry.
Military missile countermeasures, such as the Large Aircraft InfraRed CounterMeasure (LAIRCM) unit using Directed InfraRed CounterMeasure (DIRCM) techniques exist in various stages of development and deployment, but are generally restricted to military and Heads-of-State aircraft. The defense industry has also performed limited evaluation of tower-mounted IRCM subsystems for ground-based applications as an alternative to airborne installation.
Primary challenges to commercializing military IRCM equipment for application to civilian aircraft include: affordability in total cost of ownership; vastly improved reliability over their military counterparts; less labor and time-intensive maintenance interventions; lower false alarm rates; and countermeasures that are safely applied in operating environments of civilian aircraft. IRCM commercialization will require tightly integrated systems engineering, development, test and evaluation of existing and emerging military Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) for suitable equipment and processes that can be redesigned to protect civilian aircraft.
An Industry Day was held on 15 October 2003 in Washington, D.C., to describe the Counter-MANPADS Program procurement process, which began with an invitation for industry to submit White Papers and Corporate Qualifications. The conference, hosted by DHS S&T, was attended by over 200 participants from 91 organizations. To hasten program commencement, DHS S&T will utilize the procurement instrument known as Type 845, Other Transaction Agreements.
Twenty-four white papers were received from industry on October 27. Invitations for full proposals will follow to those respondents with the most promising white papers. At least two awards are projected during the first phase of this program, which begin in January, 2004. A second program phase will result in a down-selection of the one or two most promising design candidates, and prototypes will be tested in simulated and live-fire environments.
An important consideration in the selection and deployment of IRCMs aboard DOD Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) aircraft is the use of countermeasures in civilian airspace -- specifically, in populated areas. In the event of a MANPADS launch, traditional military pyrotechnic countermeasures (flares) often represent a major safety hazard to property and personnel. Directed countermeasures, such as an on-board laser to disrupt the MANPADS sensor and steer the missile away from the aircraft appear to be the most promising ASE candidates for application to civilian aircraft.
In conclusion, since the tragic events of 9/11, and we have come a long way in answering the Nation's call to improve the civil aviation security system. We better understand the threats to security and have dramatically improved our capability to share information on threats. We have built a highly skilled and professional screening force and have worked diligently to assure that imbalances in the initial placement of screeners in airports across the Nation are corrected by staffing adjustments. We have enhanced security technology at airports across the nation and are exploring potential solutions for new threats, including those posed by MANPADS. We are well on our way toward implementation of a CAPPS II system that will greatly enhance our ability to keep terrorists off of commercial airlines, without disturbing the efficient flow of passengers or compromising their privacy. We have all learned a great deal very quickly, and will continue to do so, always striving to use every tool at our disposal to drive toward excellence.