Aviation Security Legislation
Ronald Reagan National Airport
November 19, 2001
10:53 A.M. EST
Thank you all very much. Today, we take permanent and aggressive steps to improve
the security of our airways. The events of September the 11th were a call to
action. And the Congress has now responded.
The law I will sign should give all Americans greater confidence when they fly.
All members of Congress care deeply about this issue. Despite divergent views,
the Congress worked closely with my administration to develop a bipartisan conclusion
that will help protect American air travelers.
I want to thank the House and Senate leadership for their patience in this issue.
I want to thank the Speaker and the Minority Leader; the Leader of the Senate,
Senator Lott; for working hard to make sure this bill came to fruition.
I also want to thank Chairman Don Young and John Mica and Jim Oberstar who have
joined us today from the House. I want to thank you for your hard work. And
I want to thank members of the United States Senate: Chairman Hollings and John
McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison for their hard work.
I appreciate so very much the Secretary of Transportation and his steadiness
and his ability to bring confidence to the process. I picked a good man in Norm
Mineta, who is rising to the occasion.
I also want to thank his deputy, Michael Jackson, for his hard work. As well,
I appreciate Jane Garvey joining us up here today. I see other members of Congress
who are here. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate you doing the right thing
I also want to thank the pilots and flight attendants and the people of the
airline industry who have joined us today. I want to thank you for your courage
in the face of terror. I want to thank you for inspiring confidence amongst
the American people.
The broad support for this bill shows that our country is united in this crisis.
We have our political differences, but we're united to defend our country. And
we're united to protect our people. For our airways, there is one supreme priority:
Since September the 11th, the federal government has taken action to raise safety
standards. We've made funds available to the aviation industry to fortify cockpits.
More federal air marshals now ride on our airplanes. The Department of Transportation
instituted a zero-tolerance crackdown on security breaches.
Our National Guard protects us in our airports. And I want to thank the National
Guard's men and women who will be working the holiday season. I want to thank
them for being away from their families, thank them for providing more security
for people who travel.
I appreciate the work the airlines have done with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The airlines have started intense nighttime security sweeps of aircraft. They've
tightened background checks for employees and implemented non-discriminatory
government-approved criterion for identifying passengers who require additional
Now, we take the next important step. For the first time, airport security will
become a direct federal responsibility. Overseen by a new Under Secretary of
Transportation for Security. Additional funds will be provided for federal air
marshals. And a new team of federal security managers, supervisors, law enforcement
officers and screeners will ensure all passengers and carry-on bags are inspected
thoroughly and effectively. The new security force will be well-trained, made
up of U.S. citizens. And if any of its members do not perform, the new Under
Secretary will have full authority to discipline or remove them.
At the same time, we will adopt strict new requirements to screen checked baggage,
to tighten security in all other areas of airports, and to provide greater security
for travelers by bus and by train. This bill sets a one-year deadline for the
transition to the new system. It gives my administration the flexibility we
need to make that transition work.
Ultimately, this bill offers local authorities the option to bring in outside
experts, a method that's worked well in Israel and Western Europe, provided
those outside experts can meet our rigorous new safety standards and requirements.
Security comes first. The federal government will set high standards, and we
will enforce them. These have been difficult days for Americans who fly and
for American aviation. A proud industry has been hit hard. But this nation has
seen the dedication and spirit of our pilots and flight crews, and the hundreds
of thousands of hard-working people who keep America flying. We know they will
endure. I'm confident this industry will grow and prosper.
The holidays will soon be here. Even after the last few months, we have much
to be thankful for. We have a great country. We're a great people. We have our
faith, our families, and our friends. And, thanks to this bill, we have a new
commitment to security in the air. And that's good news, as Americans travel
to celebrate this season with their loved ones.
It is now my honor to sign this important piece of legislation. (Applause.)
(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)