Transportation Department will miss first airport security deadline, Mineta says

The Bush administration lacks the resources to screen all checked airline baggage for explosives by mid-January, its deadline in the recently signed aviation security act, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Tuesday. The law requires the Transportation Department to screen all checked baggage for bombs within 60 days, a mandate that will be difficult to meet, he said. "The question about bomb detection equipment is probably the most vexing and serious one we're facing," said Mineta at a homeland security conference in Washington. "There aren't enough people. There aren't enough bomb-sniffing dogs to be able to do the job." Mineta's comment followed a speech in which he outlined what department officials are doing to set up the new Transportation Security Agency created by the act. Eight "go teams" are tackling the management challenges involved in federalizing airport security, which include providing training for new baggage screeners and overseeing a transition from the current, privately run security system.

Transportation Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson is chairing a "war room" team that is managing the overall effort. Mineta tapped Kip Hawley, a shipping executive who served in the previous Bush administration, to coordinate the war room effort. Mineta also unveiled two goals that will guide officials as they design the new security agency. The department will aim to move all passengers through airport security checkpoints within 10 minutes and deploy "several thousand" new sky marshals by June 2002, he said.

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