Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to speak in support of the bill that is on the floor, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. I thank Senator Thune and Senator Nelson for their leadership.
I serve on the Commerce Committee. I am proud of this bill. Our State has a long history of aviation. It was the childhood home of Charles Lindbergh. We are home to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the 13th busiest airport in the United States. We are home to Cirrus Design Corporation in Duluth, which makes planes and is a very successful company, as well as many people whose jobs and ways of life depend on the aviation industry, not to mention the 148th Fighter Wing National Guard base, as well as the one in the Twin Cities and the one in Duluth.
I see my colleague from Arizona is here, so I will focus on one issue, and that is aviation security.
Mr. President, 9/11 was our country's wake-up call that our transportation system is a target, and the attacks in Brussels last month remind us that we must continue to do everything we can to strengthen security, and not just in our security lines at the airports but also in places like baggage claim areas and other forms of transportation, like train stations. We need to make sure our soft-target areas, as they are called--like the security lines, baggage claims, and ticketing counters at the airport--are safe.
I am a cosponsor of the amendment that passed today that will help address the issue by doubling the number of visible intermodal prevention and response teams from 30 to 60. These teams help provide important deterrent security at potential air and ground transportation targets across our country.
This amendment which passed today will also improve existing security systems in airports and train stations by expanding bomb-sniffing dog patrols, law enforcement training for emergency situations, and security in all perimeter areas of the airport.
We must also improve the secure areas of airports where airline employees have secure access to what are called sterile areas. In March, as we all know, an airline employee was arrested after attempting to use his badge to enter the boarding area of a terminal from the tarmac, bypassing security gates. He had a backpack with $282,000 in it. In the same month, we saw another employee try to smuggle 70 pounds of cocaine in her suitcase at LAX, and she was caught at a security checkpoint. The most egregious breach of security happened at the Atlanta airport, where airline employees helped to facilitate a gun-smuggling ring and were successful at getting guns on at least 20 flights from Atlanta to New York. Needless to say, there continues to be significant concern, as much as we know that the vast majority of our airline employees are hard-working and good employees.
Eighty-five Senators just voted in support of the Airport Security Enforcement and Oversight Act, a bill I cosponsored that would help address this issue of security at the airport, but I would like to add our own story out of Minnesota-St. Paul.
First of all, it is a story of inefficiency, so we made a reconfiguration at our airport. There were lines at one point where the average time was 45 to 50 minutes--average time. That was just a month ago. There were passengers waiting for 2 hours and missing their flights. There were simply not enough TSA agents. They were out at a training, which was, of course, necessary because of the inspector general's report that came out this June and showed some severe problems in security at our airports.
So we had a perfect storm of people out for training, a new reconfiguration, and finally the spring break travel. But it was simply unacceptable when our taxpayers are paying for TSA. In fact, this Congress authorized $100 million--$90 million more than they asked for in the last budget year.
I have appreciated TSA Administrator Neffenger coming to Minnesota, saying that it was unacceptable, saying that they were hiring people with the budget money that was provided.
There are also plans to use these K-9 units not just in the perimeters of the bill we passed today but also on these lines. Not only do these dog teams add more security, by working a line of passengers, they actually speed up that line because then those passengers essentially become precheck passengers and they don't have to be prechecked. They become prechecked because of the dogs, and that speeds up everything for all airport passengers.
I think we have seen enough of these terrorist attacks across the country, planes with bombs going down in other places. We know this is a danger. We don't want this in our homeland.
I appreciate the support of my colleagues on these amendments. We will continue to work on security issues.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.