WASHINGTON • Aviation officials told a Senate committee Thursday that there is still not enough intelligence sharing between the government and private aviation. They also said they remained concerned about the lack of coordination with foreign carriers coming into the United States.
The hearing was chaired by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who heads the Commerce subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security. It came as Congress has embarked on a Transportation Security Administration modernization effort, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks exposed breakdowns in the system. The full Commerce Committee could take up a modernization bill as early as next week.
Blunt and other senators raised several concerns. The Missouri senator said, for instance, that questions linger about the continuity of data collection, as well as privacy concerns, in developing biometric identification systems that would allow airport security to screen passengers of the future. He noted that some screening could use fingerprints, others the iris of the eye, to screen prospective passengers.
Blunt asked witnesses, who included Brian Weiler, director of aviation at Springfield-Branson National Airport, what concerned them most.
“We do not have unlimited resources,” Weiler said.
Others raised security concerns.
“Security always works better when the government and industry work better,” said Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association and chairman of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee. “We have discovered, sometimes the hard way, that if we had better intelligence we could stop things.”
Michael White, vice president of government and industry relations for Cargo Network Services Corp. and the International Air Transport Association, said that “we don’t have that real, true partnership, particularly with our foreign carriers.
“Without that we can’t work and share the knowledge,” he said, adding that “there is a real lack of sharing of knowledge” between private carriers and the government. He called for a “more consistent standard” of security between domestic and international carriers.
Sissy Pressnell, vice president of government relations for the British technology company, Smiths Group, and vice chair of the Security Manufacturers Association, said her association’s main concern is “the ability to get technology (for aviation security) into the field faster.” She said innovations often take longer to be installed in the United States than in foreign countries.