Today, Congressman Bill Keating’s bipartisan legislation to make our airports more secure passed the US House of Representatives. While the Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2017 was authored in direct response to recommendations contained within an independent review of commercial airports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that was requested by Congressman Keating and released in 2016, this bill caps off a years-long effort that was fueled by an investigation into the death of a 16-year-old boy.
Congressman Bill Keating – then Norfolk County District Attorney – investigated how a teenage boy managed to breach airport security at Charlotte-Douglas Airport and hide himself in the wheel well of a 737 commercial airplane destined for Boston Logan without detection. Delvonte Tisdale's tragic case, and concern for the state of airport security nationwide, resonated with Keating, who began pursuing security gaps at national commercial airports on the Homeland Security Committee when he went to Congress just months later.
Originally introduced by Congressman Keating last year, the Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act passed the House of Representatives in July 2016. The original cosponsors on the reintroduced bill include Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee; Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee in the 114th Congress; Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Transportation Security Subcommittee in the 114th Congress; Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
The Airport Perimeter and Access Control Security Act of 2017 requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to modernize and enhance airport perimeter security by consistently updating their risk assessments, as well as by developing a comprehensive strategy to keep perimeters safe in the face of evolving threats.
A May 2016 AP investigation found that intruders breach airport security fences every ten days. Prior to the 2016 GAO report, the last independent report conducted on the TSA’s oversight of perimeter security was in 2009 and determined that TSA had not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment as required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Infrastructure Protection Plan. Data indicates that cumulatively 19% of over 430 commercial airports are evaluated by TSA on a consistent basis, and in some years, it was as low as 3%.
"Ft. Lauderdale, Istanbul, Brussels, New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte – both domestically and internationally, we keep seeing examples of airports’ perimeters being breached. Perimeters are soft targets that terrorists and other violent persons continually seek to exploit,” said Congressman Keating. “Just as the landscape of terrorism is always changing, so too must our airport security policies and practices. We need a comprehensive set of policies that remain fluid enough to account for the uniqueness of each airport. This bipartisan legislation does just that..”
A summary of Congressman Keating’s efforts to investigate, understand, and secure airport perimeter security can be found here: https://keating.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/gao-releases-keating-report-airport-perimeter-security-highlighting
A copy of the full GAO report requested by Congressman Keating that was released in May 2016 can be found here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/677586.pdf