Continuing tight security at all airports now that the Persian Gulf war has ended may not be not needed and is costly to smaller ones such as Salt Lake International Airport, says Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.
After meeting with officials from the airport, Garn asked Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner to reevaluate security needs airport by airport."Obviously the security at New York City's Kennedy airport needs to be tighter than that at Salt Lake City's airport. A large, international airport with high-volume airline traffic and many worldwide destinations requires tighter security than a smaller airport with fewer international destinations," Garn said.
"Tailoring the security measures to the needs at individual airports seems to be a lot more reasonable than treating all airports as if they have similar threats," he added.
As war loomed in the Persian Gulf, all airports in the nation were ordered to maintain security at the highest levels possible.
Salt Lake City Airport Authority director Louis Miller and authority board chairman Patrick Shea told Garn the Salt Lake airport has complied with the call to heighten security by increasing security guards and dogs in the terminals and on the airfield and by restricting access to concourses only to ticketed passengers. Beefed-up security is costing the airport an additional $3,800 a week, most of it going toward overtime pay.
Miller and Shea were in Washington attending an industry conference, and the topic of re-evaluating security was brought up when Skinner addressed the conferees. "About 200 (airport operators) were there and I would say 100 had the same concern" about the cost of continuing the FAA's blanket security policy, Miller said.
The pair met with others of Utah's congressional delegation, and their meeting with Garn led him to tell Skinner, "The strengthened precautions are becoming very costly for local airport operators to maintain."
He added, "I believe it may no longer be necessary to keep the highest security level in place at all airports throughout the country without increasing the risk to travelers."
When the tighter restrictions were originally implemented nationwide, security consultants said such action at every airport was necessary to ensure terrorists could not find and exploit weak points.
While Garn is asking restrictions be lifted now somewhat, he praised the Transportation Department for implementing them quickly when war threatened, and he said they created "the safest possible traveling conditions."