08.02.06

Members Of Congress Introduce Legislation To Combat The Threat Of Shoulder-Fired Missiles

WASHINGTON, D.C. Members of Congress who have been leading the fight to combat the threat of shoulderfired missiles today introduced legislation that would require all U.S. commercial turbojet aircraft to be equipped with countermeasure systems.

The Commercial Airline Missile Defense Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Barbara Boxer (DCA) and Charles Schumer (DNY), and in the House by Representative Steve Israel (DNY), would require that the installation of countermeasure systems begin no later than six months after the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the countermeasure system has been successfully tested and evaluated.

Similar legislation was first introduced in February 2003 in response to two separate attacks against aircraft attributed to al Qaeda terrorists. Since that time, some progress has been made in adapting countermeasures now being used by the military for use on commercial aircraft. A special program office has been created within the Department of Homeland Security that is working to demonstrate and test two prototype countermeasure systems.

It is estimated that there are between 300,000 and one million shoulderfired missiles in the world today thousands are thought to be in the hands of terrorist and other nonstate entities.

The threat posed by these weapons also known as manportable air defense systems (MANPADS) is very real. In May 2002, the FBI said, . . .Given al Qaedas demonstrated objective to target the U.S. airline industry, its access to U.S. and Russianmade MANPAD systems, and recent apparent targeting of U.S.led military forces in Saudi Arabia, law enforcement agencies in the United States should remain alert to the potential use of MANPADS against U.S. aircraft.

In February 2004, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Admiral Lowell Jacoby, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on current and projected national security threats. He stated the following:

A MANPAD attack against civilian aircraft would produce large number of casualties, international publicity and a significant economic impact on aviation. These systems are highly portable, easy to conceal, inexpensive, available in the global weapons market and instruction manuals are on the internet. Commercial aircraft are not equipped with countermeasures and commercial pilots are not trained in evasive measures. An attack could occur with little or no warning. Terrorists may attempt to capitalize on these vulnerabilities.

Senator Boxer said, Right now, we are sitting ducks, and nothing but luck has kept us from being hit with a catastrophic terrorist attack against our commercial aircraft. We need to be proactive about combating the threat of shoulderfired missiles. If we can have systems that protect our military aircraft, then we can find away to provide the flying public with the same protections. The cost of not doing this is absolutely incalculable.

Senator Schumer said, We know that terrorists have these weapons, we know that they want to use them to attack Americans in the sky, and we know how to protect against them. Its vitally important that the federal government move as fast as possible to install missile defenses on our commercial aircraft.

This summer, recordbreaking numbers of Americans will board planes, Representative Israel said. Theyll go through TSA lines, have to show their photo ids, have their carryon baggage screened, and have wands waved over their bodies. Once they finally board their planes, they may feel safe, but nothing will have been done to protect them from the most glaring vulnerability in commercial aviation: shoulderfiredmissiles. It would only take one successful attack with a MANPAD to have a devastating effect upon the commercial airline industry. This terrorist threat must be addressed sooner rather than later which is why Congresswoman Bean and I are introducing this legislation that I first introduced in February 2003.



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