Transportation budget lacks full airport security funding

Top Transportation Department officials told the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday that they do not have enough money to fully implement the Aviation Security Act passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Expect a supplemental request," said Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead, who said the $4.8 billion budget request, emergency funds and new fees would not cover the cost of new technology and screeners.

"We just don't have a handle on the total costs yet," said John Magaw, undersecretary for transportation security and head of the new Transportation Safety Administration.

Magaw said the agency is in the process of receiving competitive bids on bomb detection machines and hopes to offer Congress a new, airport-by-airport cost estimate in 60-90 days.

The agency is making progress in meeting deadlines to screen bags and take over private security and expects to assume control of existing security contracts by Feb. 17. But senators questioned the officials about why bags were not being matched to passengers on connecting flights.

Similar questions came up at a House Transportation and Infrastructure oversight hearing last month. The agency has decided to conduct a pilot study to see how to handle connecting flights, Magaw said.

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