Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano awarded $41 million in the last week for in-line baggage systems at airports in San Francisco and Philadelphia. These are dollars from the pot of $700 million allocated for airport in-line baggage systems in the stimulus bill — a.k.a. the American Investment and Recover Act.
These in-line baggage systems will improve security and convenience for the traveling public. Once you check your bag, it travels by conveyor belt directly to your plane, with much less of a risk of getting lost. It also is x-rayed by CT technology, a technology originally developed by the medical field that was converted for airport use and mandated for all checked luggage by Congress after 9/11.
Certainly these projects will bring needed infrastructure improvements to those major airports and put dollars to work in the community as well.
On another aviation security front, implementation of Secure Flight is moving along. All passengers that board airplanes are checked against the watch list that is maintained by the National Counter Terrorism Center. This process has been done by each individual airline checking their manifests against the watch list as provided by the Transportation Security Administration. Now the government is taking the process in-house. Passengers will need to provide three pieces of information when making a reservation: full name, date of birth and gender. The name needs to match the name as it appears on your government ID, as the New York Times pointed out last week, “no nicknames please.”
The government will keep this information for seven days for anyone that is not a watch list match. Once Secure Flight is fully implemented with all commercial airlines (late in 2010), the problem of misidentification that often delays and frustrates many people at the check-in counter will be virtually eliminated.
Technology and identity verification are two of many layers of security aimed at protecting aviation travel and both are direct recommendations of the 9/11 commission. These developments represent significant progress that should give all air travelers renewed confidence in the security system.