Bomb detection portals will increase by nine times at the nation's airports as part of the aviation security enhancements announced Friday by the Transportation Security Administration.
Though most public attention focused on renewed permission for passengers to carry small scissors and other tools onto airplanes, TSA Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley told reporters at a Washington news conference that technology accounts for a significant portion of the latest changes in airline security. His speech is posted on the TSA Web site.
Hawley said explosives detection training and technology improvements include increasing the number of trace explosives portals from 43 to 340 by the end of 2006. Sixteen of the new portals are scheduled to be installed by the end of 2005.
"Just as we have invested in our people to help reduce the risk that explosives will be taken aboard a plane, we are also investing in technology for this purpose," Hawley said. "This new technology uses puffs of air to help detect the presence of explosives on individuals."
The TSA also recently completed enhanced explosives detection training of more than 18,000 officers. The training focused primarily on identifying X-ray images of improvised explosive parts, rather than simply trying to scan for assembled bombs.
As well, the TSA has updated a database of images to include more improvised explosive images, which are randomly projected onto X-ray screens at checkpoints to help maintain and improve skills, Hawley said.
The changes in airport security reflect principles and a risk-based strategy set forth in a recent assessment by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
"The changes reflect not only a new and evolving threat environment, but also our determination to make good decisions based on data and metrics, a practice that TSA will continue to employ going forward," Hawley said.
Still, many experts say there's still a gap in scanning air cargo, posing a potential security threat..