Mineta - U.S. likely won't meet deadline for airport security

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration all but conceded Tuesday that it will not be able to deliver by the end of the year on a federal aviation security system that combines the best in protection and passenger convenience.

Either congressional deadlines for federal security screeners and bomb detection technology will go unmet, or the effort to meet them will result in long lines for travelers, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta told the House aviation subcommittee. Lawmakers could extend the deadlines, but Mineta did not ask for that.

Mineta said blame for any failure to meet deadlines should rest on Congress for delaying and scaling back a request by President Bush for $4.4 billion in emergency funds for the Transportation Security Administration.

The acrimonious Capitol Hill hearing came less than a week after the head of the TSA resigned, amid complaints that the agency is disorganized and heavy-handed. The turmoil could well renew travelers' concerns about their safety, and a growing number of lawmakers and independent experts are calling for mid-course corrections to the federal takeover of aviation security.

"We could truly be looking at a national embarrassment, with check-in waits of up to three hours," said Kevin Mitchell, head of the Business Travel Coalition.

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