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Transportation Security Administration

Remarks at the 25th AVSEC World Conference

Administrator Peter Neffenger
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
As Delivered

Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai, Secretary General Liu, Director General Gittens, Director General de Juniac, Director General Hololei: thank you for your warm welcome to this 25th AVSEC World Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Director General de Juniac (IATA), Director General Gittens (ACI) and Secretary General Liu (ICAO): I thank you for the opportunity to be here to offer some thoughts on the evolving threat to the aviation ecosystem and the opportunity we have to do something different. 

The Threat Environment

Much has happened over the past year and we face a challenging and dynamic security environment. One of the more significant challenges to security is how terror groups are directing, inspiring, and enabling fighters across the globe. That means we will see new kinds of actors who continue to evolve their attack methods, even while revisiting tactics previously used. And today’s terrorist is technically-savvy and a skillful user of social media. What hasn’t changed is that terrorists are still intensely focused on attacking aviation.

The Socio-Economic Cost of Terrorism

The catastrophic loss of an aircraft or the destruction of a crowded airport affects us all in deep and profound ways. Sadly, we have seen both over the past year with the downing of Metrojet flight 9268 over the Sinai with the loss of 224 lives, the attempted destruction of Daallo flight 159 over Mogadishu, and the tragic attacks on Brussels and Istanbul airports. These events have large economic, psychological, and emotional impact.

The cost of terrorism is high, no matter how we measure it, which is why everyone in this room has been so focused on identifying threats, reducing vulnerabilities and preventing attacks. Just as the security threat is evolving, so must we continue to evolve our approach to security.  

We can look to the evolution of aviation safety culture as a guide.  Safety is woven into the very fabric of aviation – it is simply what we do, it is second nature.  I would submit that we’re not yet there with security. We need to weave security into the fabric of aviation as well – a holistic, ecosystem view that builds a culture of security and integrates all security elements: checkpoint, landside, perimeter, passenger, insiders, access and so forth.

Our collective responsibility is to create a fully integrated security system that reduces vulnerabilities and prevents attacks, but most importantly, to do so in a manner that avoids jurisdictional disputes and handoffs from one element to another.

Historic Mandate

And we have something new ­– a historic mandate: United Nations Security Council Resolution 2309, which was unanimously adopted in September. UNSCR 2309 gives us an unprecedented opportunity to work across borders to develop a common strategy, to determine objectives, and to establish goals for a worldwide aviation security system.

The resolution has three key provisions:

  • It reaffirms that terrorist threats are threats to international peace and security as a whole,
  • It affirms that states have an interest in how their citizens are protected against terrorist attacks on aviation elsewhere, and
  • It recognizes that aviation security is a shared responsibility.

This is powerful direction to strengthen and broaden the global aviation security system. It is an opportunity for us all to become active participants in creating a truly consistent, collaborative and coordinated security system – one in which we hold ourselves accountable for implementation and results. But also one in which we help one another meet our obligations and fulfill our roles as security partners.

To do this we need to focus on three different elements: Culture, implementation and oversight.

  • A culture of security – just like our culture of safety – that establishes a shared responsibility and shared information throughout the system.
  • Effective Implementation of existing standards to counter the threat.
  • Effective oversight to ensure standards are met and to identify, and provide, assistance where needed.

Foundation

Within the United States, and specifically the Transportation Security Administration, we have profoundly changed our approach to security operations – training our personnel, verifying our performance, and transforming the system.

Flexibility

Some examples of our approach:

  • We established a national command center focused on airport screening operations.
  • We’ve become more transparent and collaborative. We conduct a daily conference call across the U.S. aviation system with airlines, airports, TSA frontline supervisors, and stakeholders to listen, to learn and to connect.
  • We significantly improved our internal inspection regime to determine how effectively we’ve implemented our security measures and to determine whether we’ve trained our people adequately.

Innovation

We established an Innovation Task Force to be an incubator for new ideas – to bring stakeholders together to imagine and implement new security practices, procedures and technologies to improve security effectiveness while improving the passenger experience.

In the passenger stream, we envision travelers entering the active aviation security environment not at the airport, but when they sit down to make a reservation – and they remain in the system until they reach their destination.

Partnerships

All of this we did in collaboration with our stakeholders – public and private. We worked together with the airlines, airports, industry, academia, Congress, our intelligence community partners, state and local law enforcement authorities. We can globally fulfill the Security Council Resolution mandate together as aviation security professionals and partners by asking ourselves these questions:

  • What can we do to create a culture of aviation security across the system?
  • How can we ensure the effective implementation of security measures?
  • How can we support and enhance oversight regimes in a manner that hold us appropriately accountable to one another?

Elevating Aviation Security Worldwide

I believe that by seeking answers to these questions, we will dramatically change the system upon which our livelihood depends. We can do this through ICAO, and the support of organizations like IATA, and ACI, we can drive a shared approach – that manages the risks, adapts and responds to new threats, collaborates with one another, shares information and assists other countries to meet standards and mitigate vulnerabilities.

The United States is committed to being a reliable partner – to hold healthy and frank dialogues, to share information, to innovate, to develop new capabilities to build our security culture, and to protect a system that is vital to the economic development and prosperity of all countries.

Thank you once again for this opportunity this morning; to ICAO, IATA, ACI and to all the sponsors this week.