WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today the graduation of 12 new members of its National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program (NEDCTP). The teams will be assigned to airports in Los Angeles; Cleveland; Phoenix; Tulsa, Okla.; Greensboro, N.C.; and Little Rock, Ark., and mass transit systems in Boston (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), Philadelphia (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) and Baltimore (Maryland Transit Administration).
"These teams will serve the public in some of the busiest transportation hubs in our nation," said Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Kip Hawley. "Canine teams are a highly effective deterrent to would-be terrorists, and they directly address our goal of enhancing explosives detection capabilities and making security procedures less predictable. We are committed to making these teams available to other modes of transportation coast-to-coast as part of our comprehensive approach to security."
During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills, explosives safety, and safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids. They also spent much of their time searching for explosives in specialized indoor and outdoor training labs that include an aircraft fuselage, a terminal area, and a cargo warehouse. The teams also practiced searching luggage and a parking lot filled with cars, trucks, vans and buses.
"These 12 teams represent the program's commitment to providing quality training for securing transportation systems," said Dave Kontny, Director of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. "The graduation of six mass transit handlers is the first step in our expansion of TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams into the mass transit environment, and we look forward to working closely with each of these agencies, as we have with our aviation partners for over 30 years," he added.
Once the teams return to their airports and mass transit systems, they will undergo several hours of proficiency training each week that includes all the odors and distractions associated with these busy environments. Within the next few months, the teams will also undergo a rigorous on-site certification process. To ensure they maintain a high level of proficiency, the handlers and their dogs are re-certified annually in a stringent, three-to-four-day process.
TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams are stationed at more than 70 of the nation's largest airports and will soon be located at 10 of the nation's largest mass transit systems. Because canine teams combine excellent mobility with reliable detection rates, their use today has evolved to include searching areas in response to bomb threats associated with airport and mass transit terminals and aircraft, trains, luggage, cargo and vehicles, as well as serving as a proven deterrent to would-be terrorists.
The NEDCTP is a cooperative partnership with participating airports and mass transit systems. TSA procures and trains the canines, provides in-depth training for the handlers, and partially reimburses the participating agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care. 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 transportation systems.