President Bush Friday announced new measures to strengthen airport security during the holiday season. Mr. Bush is urging Congressional Democrats and Republicans to work out their differences over legislation to boost aviation security on the ground and in the air.
Following the September 11 attacks, President Bush told the nation's governors that the federal government would pay for them to call up national guard troops to improve airport security. Friday, he increased that offer to make more troops available at airports through the end of the year.
"In order to increase security of airline travelers during the holiday season, we will increase by 25 percent the number of national guard personnel to protect our airports and airlines and American travelers," the president announced. "We are calling up these guardsmen and women immediately. This increase in security will last through the busy holiday period and is in addition to more than 6,000 members of the guard already mobilized at airports since September the 11."
President Bush said these are temporary measures to increase consumer confidence in commercial air travel until the government can enact new laws to boost security.
Both the Republican-controlled House and the Democatic-controlled Senate have passed aviation security bills. They are now in conference to work out differences between the legislation.
The biggest difference is the status of baggage inspectors and security screeners. The President favors Republican legislation that he says gives government the flexibility to assemble "skilled and disciplined" baggage inspectors by keeping those workers private employees. That would allow security managers to more easily fire inspectors who fail to meet new federal standards.
The Democratic legislation makes all aiport security inspectors federal employees in an effort to increase their reliability by paying them more and improving their training.