FAA Extension Provision Doubles Airport Security in Weak Areas, Helps Prevent Brussels-Type Attacks

Cantwell-sponsored legislation expands TSA’s VIPR program, increasing security in “soft-target” areas

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the former chairman and current ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, secured passage of the Cantwell-sponsored FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016. The legislation extends the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and includes a critical airport safety measure that increases the number of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) VIPR teams from 30 to 60.

Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams enhance security in the “soft-target” areas of airports, such as the spaces outside of security checkpoints and check-in areas, often with the help of bomb-detecting canine units. The recent airport bombings in Brussels and Istanbul occurred in these “soft-target’ areas.

“By passing this bill we're doubling the number of terrorist deterrent teams at U.S. airports and ground transportation hubs. We saw the tragic events in Brussels and Istanbul, and we saw that terrorists can attack us not just on an airplane or inside the security perimeter, but outside. This legislation gives us the resources we need to enhance the use of bomb-sniffing dogs, strengthen perimeter security, expand training, respond to active shooter attacks, and to make sure that the outer limits of our airports are also secure,” said Senator Cantwell in remarks on the Senate floor.

VIPR teams protect and promote confidence in the nation's transportation systems through the targeted deployment of TSA screening and law enforcement capabilities at transit hubs, including airports and subways, and National Special Security Events (NSSEs). TSA works with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deploy these teams based on threat levels and other security priorities. 

VIPR Teams consist of law enforcement officials, regulatory inspectors, explosives specialists, and in some cases, screening personnel. They are recognizable to the American public because the teams often include bomb-sniffing canines. TSA VIPR deployments are coordinated with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and industry security partners throughout the United States.

The broader FAA Reauthorization bill also expands consumer protections, makes other improvements to aviation safety, and improves drone safety and innovation.