KGVO: Daines Press TSA on Montana Absence of Promised Screening Systems

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At a Senate transportation committee hearing yesterday, Senator Steve Daines pressed TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger on delays in screening equipment at rural airports.

“As you know, our security is as strong as our weakest link,” said Daines. “Enhancements at rural airports strengthen security of the entire national air space. The bad guys are going to find weak places to come in. At your confirmation hearing I asked about the AIT scanners that were going to be installed in 2012 and Montana airports are still without them.”

Neffenger responded by saying that funding was the main factor delaying the placement of AIT (or full body) scanners. Daines went on to say that two Montana airports were in particular need of modern screening equipment.

“There are two specifically and there are two important communities in our state,” Daines said. “One is in Helena which is our state capitol, that airport; they have been waiting for four years for the deployment of that technology. The second is Great Falls. It’s highly important to Great Falls. The Malmstrom Air Force Base is in Great Falls and that is where we control one third of the nations ICBM’s.”

During the hearing, Daines also discussed partnership screening programs, where a private firm, rather than the TSA, performs the screening at the airport. Of the 21 airports nationwide that are part of the Partnership Screening Program, 9 are from Montana.  However, the airport in Butte recently requested to return to the federal program and was told that if they did, there would be no local screening system.