By Caitlin Fairchild
November 30, 2011Legislation to expedite airport security for military service members and their families has won unanimous House approval.
The Risk-Based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act gives the Transportation Security Administration six months to develop a new procedures for screening military passengers.
The House passed the legislation late Tuesday with 404 unopposed votes -- a rare point of agreement in a generally divided Congress.
"In respect to our men and women in uniform and in the best interest of our national security, this bipartisan initiative is the least we could do for our military personnel and their families traveling our nation's airports while serving our country," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Chip Cravaak, R-Minn., said in a statement.
Cravaak noted the measure would speed the process and also alleviate wait time for civilians not included in the preference plan.
TSA already provides some special accommodations for military personnel, allowing them to keep boots on if they contain no metal and to carry firearms if appropriate safety measures are taken.
The agency began a pilot program Nov. 15 to streamline security procedures for service members at the Monterey Regional Airport in California by using a card reader that identifies military personnel in good standing.
Both the new legislation and the pilot program have the support of the U.S. Travel Association.
"Our country trusts the men and women of the armed forces with the ultimate responsibility -- to protect and defend the United States," Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association president said in a statement supporting the bill. "Yet when flying for official duties or en route to put their lives on the line for this country, they are met with the same skepticism, scrutiny and inefficiencies that every person receives in our 'one-size-fits-all' aviation security process."
Cravaak has urged the Senate to act quickly in passing its own version of the legislation.
Both Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine., leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, have expressed support for TSA's Trusted Traveler Program, which began in October and allows participants to go through a speedier security process in a dedicated lane.
By Caitlin Fairchild
November 30, 2011