President Clinton on Monday proposed $1.1 billion in new spending to tighten airline security and fight global terrorism.
The request to Congress ties together a number of long-standing anti-terror initiatives and a list of recommendations from a new commission, formed in the aftermath of the July 17 explosion of TWA Flight 800, to find ways to make air travel safer.
Among the items in the package are sophisticated new screening devices for airline passengers and cargo and the hiring or transfer of as many as 500 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to deter and investigate domestic terrorism.
“We know we can’t make the world risk-free, but we can reduce the risk we face, and we have to take the fight to the terrorists,” Clinton said at an Oval Office ceremony at which he accepted the recommendations of the aviation safety panel. “If we have the will, we can find the means.”
The $1.1 billion package has two primary components - $429 million in spending for aviation security urged by the commission headed by Vice President Al Gore, and $667 million in antiterrorism spending at a variety of federal agencies, from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Among the recommended items in the package:
Purchase of 54 computed tomography systems for screening airline baggage and 25 high-technology machines for detecting explosives ($91.1 million).
Acquire 410 “trace detectors” for scanning carry-on baggage. These machines can detect minute amounts of explosives on the surfaces of laptop computers, cellular phones and other items ($37.8 million).
Hire 140 additional U.S. Customs Service inspectors to screen outgoing passengers and cargo ($26.6 million).
Increase FBI staffing devoted to investigations of potential terrorism and protection of critical U.S. facilities ($91.7 million).
Fund 114 bomb-sniffing dog teams for use at U.S. airports ($8.9 million).
“We find that in improving aviation security, there is no silver bullet or single magic answer,” Gore said during the ceremony. “There is no single technology process or change in procedure, which by itself will address the security challenges that we face. So we’re presenting a combination of approaches; some high-tech, some low-tech, even some no-tech.”