Amendment passed full Senate today as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation; it will beef up security in non-secure target areas at airports in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Brussels

New measures will increase presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines and direct Homeland Security funding to enhance security in “soft” target areas at airports, such as check-in and baggage claim areas

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that a critical amendment she helped introduce earlier this week to strengthen security at airports has passed the Senate as part of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Reauthorization bill. The amendment will strengthen U.S. airport security, especially in non-secure “soft” target areas at airports like check-in and baggage claim areas. It would also increase the presence of federal agents with bomb-sniffing canines at these non-secure areas, and direct Homeland Security funding to enhance security in these “soft” target areas.

“Following the senseless and tragic terror attacks at the Brussels Airport, security officials must be given the common sense tools they need to keep passengers safe when they travel. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, we’ve seen firsthand that these tools can enhance both safety and efficiency,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Our amendment will help increase the presence of security personnel patrolling the 'soft' target areas at our airports - such as baggage claim and check-in - that could be the most susceptible to attack.”

Joining Klobuchar in introducing the amendment were U.S. Senators Heinrich, Manchin, Schumer, Nelson, Cantwell, Carper, Baldwin, Durbin, Bennet, and Blumenthal. The amendment has been endorsed by the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Specifically, the amendment that the full Senate passed today will:

1.      Expand and Enhance Visible Deterrents (VIPR teams)

The measure doubles the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams nationwide from 30 to as many as 60 and add their operations to non-sterile areas of an airport, such as outside of a check point, to enhance “soft target” security. These VIPR teams promote confidence in and protect the nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement capabilities at transit hubs, including airports and subways, and National Special Security Events (NSSEs). TSA works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy these teams based on threat levels and other security priorities. VIPR Teams consist of a variety of operational assets that include Law Enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel. They are recognizable to the American public because the teams often include bomb-sniffing canines. TSA VIPR deployments are coordinated with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and industry security partners throughout the United States.

 2.      Provide New Funding for Law Enforcement Training Active Shooter Incidents

The measure will create a new eligible use under SHSGP/UASI funding for training exercises to enhance preparedness for and response to active shooter incidents at public locations, including airports, mass transit systems and other “soft target” areas. Currently, 25 percent of Urban Area Security Initiative and State Homeland Security Grant Program funds are used for law enforcement terrorism prevention activities. However, there is no explicit authorization for those funds to be used for training exercises for active shooter incidents events at public locations.

 3.      Strengthen Airport and Mass Transit Security in Non-Secure Areas

The measure authorizes and makes explicit that State Homeland security funding grants (SHSGP / UASI) can be used for airport and surface transportation security in non-secure “soft” areas.