WASHINGTON - Twelve new teams joined the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program following graduation today at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The graduates will report for duty at:
Los Angeles International Airport, Sacramento International Airport, San Diego International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, Chicago Midway Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport; Philadelphia International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
During the graduation ceremony, Randy Stone, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the TSA's Regulatory Inspection Division said, "TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams are a critical aspect of our multi-layered approach to aviation security. Federal Security Directors continuously request additional TSA-trained and certified canine teams to assist with day-to-day security requirements."
During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills, explosives safety, and safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids. They spent much of their time searching for explosives in specialized indoor and outdoor training areas that resemble the airport environment, including aircraft searches where teams check cockpits, cabins, and overhead storage bins. The teams also practice searching warehouses, luggage and a parking lot filled with cars, trucks, vans and buses.
After returning to their airports, the teams will undergo several hours of proficiency training each week in their operational environment, encountering all the odors and distractions associated with a busy airport. To ensure these teams stay sharp, they are certified annually -- a stringent, four-to-eight day process designed to demonstrate they meet TSA standards.
"Thirty-one years ago the first 20 teams were deployed to provide airport security. With today's graduation we will have 299 teams in place," said Dave Kontny, Director of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program.
Because canine teams combine excellent mobility with reliable detection rates, their use has evolved to include searching areas in response to bomb threats associated with airport terminals and aircraft, luggage, cargo and vehicles, as well as serving as a proven deterrent to would-be terrorists or criminals.
Kontny added, "That work will also include using the TSA-certified canine teams to assist in increasing the amount of cargo that is screened before it is placed onboard passenger and all-cargo aircraft."
The TSA Explosives Detection Canine Team Program is a cooperative partnership with participating airports. TSA pays to train the canine, provides in-depth training for the handler, and partially reimburses the participating agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care. The TSA-certified canine teams reflect the core values of the Department of Homeland Security -- providing first responders with the right tools, technical assistance and funding to protect our nation's interests.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, the number of teams available for airport duty has doubled to 299 at 64 of the nation's busiest airports. Plans call for expanding the program to 375 teams at 82 airports.