In the years leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States lacked a comprehensive national policy and strategy for aviation security. The approach to aviation security was largely shaped by past events, such as the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988, rather than a comprehensive evaluation of the full range of security risks. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 revealed failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management by both the FAA and the U.S. intelligence community. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. aviation security policy and strategy was closely linked to the changes called for in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA, P.L. 107-71), which emphasized sweeping changes to the security of passenger airline operations. While the importance of strategic planning was recognized, it was not a priority. The 9/11 Commission Report concluded that the TSA had failed to develop an integrated strategy for the transportation sector and mode specific plans, prompting Congress to mandate the development of these strategies and plans in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458). While the TSA has developed these strategies and plans, the documents have been considered security sensitive thus limiting public discourse on the DHS strategy for aviation security. However, in June 2006 President Bush directed the DHS to establish and implement a national strategy for aviation security and an accompanying set of supporting plans. Under the framework for national aviation security policy established by the President, the DHS has developed a publicly-available national strategy for aviation security that addresses threats to aviation using a risk-based methodology to complement the overarching National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) and seeks to deter and prevent terrorist attacks against aviation, mitigate damage and expedite recovery and minimize the impact of an attack to the aviation system. The strategy seeks to achieve these objectives by engaging domestic and international partners and carrying out specific actions set forth in a series of supporting plans for operational security, surveillance and intelligence, threat response, system recovery, and coordination. Congress may have a specific interest in assessing whether these plans are comprehensive, adaptable, sustainable, and adequately coordinated with budgetary decisions and resource allocation. Specific issues for Congress may include the validity of the strategy's underlying risk assumptions; the extent to which 9/11 Commission recommendations and statutory requirements are reflected in the strategy; consideration of sustainability of and advancement of security technologies to meet future needs and system demands; whether the strategy is sufficiently forward-looking and not reactive in its approach; the extent to which the strategy provides a comprehensive framework for a robust aviation security system; and the degree to which strategic objectives and approaches align with budget priorities and resource availability.
"January 2, 2008." Title taken from title screen (viewed April 5, 2011).
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