THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY ELAINE KAMARCK, THE VICE PRESIDENT'S SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR, AND JACK LEW, ACTING DIRECTOR OF OMB
The Briefing Room
12:54 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. You all were present, I believe, for the President's announcement on aviation security earlier today. And I'm delighted I've got Elaine Kamarck, who is the Vice President's senior policy advisor and who has worked very closely with that Aviation Security Commission here; and also, Jack Lew, the Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who can tell you more about the breakdown of funding that the President has indicated he will request of Congress.
We've got some additional material on the funding that's now been made available to you. You might have some questions about that, but I'm happy that Elaine and Jack could be here to take any questions you might have.
Elaine, why don't you start off; and then Jack.
MS. KAMARCK: Thank you. The report that the Vice President gave to the President this morning represents 20 initiatives, some new, some old. The important thing to note about them is that, taken together, they offer a systemic approach to aviation security; that there is no one thing you can do. You can have great machines, but if you don't have trained scanners running the machines you won't be safe. You can have wonderful machines, wonderful scanners, if the perimeter of the airport is unsecured you could still be unsafe.
So in developing this first set of initiatives we looked at a comprehensive view of airline and airport security and try to look at as many different options as possible to make sure that air travel was safe.
The deployment of existing technology amounts to $161.3 million. You will see in the OMB materials that that is broken down into four different items. And let me just do this for you so it's easy for you to see: $91.1 million for machines to screen-check bags, $37.8 million for machines to check carry-on bags, $31.4 million for machines to look at air cargo, and $1 million for document scanners and, actually, machines that actually check traces on tickets and documents. And so that's how -- I just wanted to do that for you to cross-walk our report with the OMB numbers that Jack is going to present.
Other than that, I do want to emphasize this is the first report of this commission. There will be subsequent reports. They will deal with much more difficult technical questions, like aging aircraft, protocols for inspection like the global-positioning satellite and what that means for the future of air traffic control. And I think, as you can see, we've got a group of very high-level people on the commission, including some very good scientists who will help the government work through these issues.
MR. LEW: I was going to go through in a general level the whole package and try and explain how the Gore Commission recommendations fit in with the other pieces, and then try to leave the details for questions afterwards.
The total package is $1.097 billion. The design of the package is the result of a month-long review of government-wide of our funding and our activities to combat terrorism. The Gore Commission focused on airline safety. We were focusing on a number of other things, particularly on defense facilities overseas, other U.S. facilities overseas -- State Department and other -- domestic federal facilities, including monuments and museums, and enforcement generally, not just in the area of airline safety.
The principles behind the review are the established administration policy on terrorism, which have not been reviewed; we've not changed the policy on terrorism. To some extent what we have done is accelerated the kind of review that would have been part of the '98 budget to take a look at everything in the federal government and take a snapshot of what our best estimate now of the needs is. And this package represents the result of that.
The Gore Commission amounts to $430 million of the total. The other pieces break out as follows: For facilities -- and facilities is domestic and international -- is a total $437 million. A big chunk of that is related to moving the troops in the Gulf area after the Khobar Towers incident, about $123 million of $437 million is for the relocation of the Gulf troops. Another $139 million is other DOD security expenditures which are related to things like perimeter protection, jersey barriers and the like.
Another $48 million is to secure other U.S. facilities overseas, some of those are State Department facilities, but there are a number of other U.S. agencies that have overseas activities, and the attempt was to try and make sure that there's a uniform standard of security in all of the U.S. facilities overseas.
The balance of about $127 million is domestic, and it's really spread throughout the government. After the Oklahoma City bombing we did a review, the Justice Department did a review, and came out with standards for federal facilities. A number of changes were made immediately, but it's not a one-time event to say we've met the standards. It's constant review and the review takes place in the context of the budget process; we accelerated that. And this is the funding that we think is necessary to provide security at U.S. facilities domestically.
The next major category is enforcement. The total for enforcement really is larger than this; $114 million is the non-Gore Commission portion of enforcement. There's a large increase in FBI and Treasury Department resources that are built in to the Gore Commission recommendations because they relate to airline safety. In addition to that, there's another $114 million, and that is largely related to FBI, Treasury -- Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm agents. But it is also some INS and other Justice Department activities that are related to terrorism investigation and enforcement.
The third category is consequence management, and the total for that is $117 million. This, broadly speaking, is an increase of expenditures to assure that when there are indications of possible terrorist incidents or, after an incident occurs, that resources are available and personnel are properly trained to handle situations as they develop. A large chunk of that is in the Defense Department -- about $90 million of that $117 is in the Defense Department, and it's to assure that soldiers and sailors are trained to protect themselves from terrorist incidents and to respond in the event that an incident does occur.
Overall, the package of $1.0967 billion, so almost $1.1 billion we think represents a very serious effort to assure that we're doing everything that we can do to both take the steps to make sure the terrorist incidents don't occur, and to respond when incidents do occur in both investigation and in crisis management.
The papers that we've handed out go through a great deal of detail in terms of the items department by department, and I'd be happy to answer questions, as would Elaine, on any of the specifics.
Q Of the $1.1 billion, of the part that's not the Gore Commission part, so $600-odd million, how much of that has been long pending proposals? Has some of it been sitting up there for a month --
MR. LEW: No. This is a new proposal. There are some other items that we've requested which are not included in that total where, in the course of the appropriations process, we will continue to press our case. One example is in the case of the Justice Department, their digital telephone initiative was not funded so far. We're continuing to fight for that, but the $100 million for that is not included in here. This is new money.
Q The money that the President talked about, though, in the spring of '95 in the immediate aftermath of Oklahoma City about creating the counterterrorism unit of the FBI and all of that, that's all either still pending or was taken care of as part of the terrorism bill?
MR. LEW: It was either acted on, or to the extent that there is a '97 piece pending, it's not included in here.
Q Not included -- this is all new proposal?
MR. LEW: Correct. Correct. A great deal of that was funded, and some of this initiative builds on the pieces that were set out at that time.
Q Jack, how did you arrive at the number $54 million for explosive detectors? Wouldn't you need a lot more than that?
MR. LEW: When you say explosive detectors --
Q The CTX 5000 -- there's a lot more international gates --
MR. LEW: There are a lot of more gates. I'll answer, and maybe Elaine would want to join me on this one. There is a limit to how many machines physically can be purchased in a short-term. At the moment, the machines are made in fairly limited quantity, and this was an aggressive attempt to speed up the production in ways that Elaine may want to comment further on. But we don't think that you could do very much more of this in the time frame covered by this funding request.
MS. KAMARCK: And remember that this is a one-year request. Remember, this is the first-year request that the commission -- one of the things the commission is actually going to take up in its subsequent meetings are, in fact, is the question of funding long-term and the question of which ones of these machines are really the best ones to do the job.
There's also a $20-million increase in here for research and development, because there is a bunch of other technologies that, in fact, could be coming on line soon that, in fact, we may want to augment, say, a CTX 5000 with.
Q One other question there. How realistic is it to be able to get $1 billion through Congress at this stage?
MR. LEW: I think you probably recall that, in July, the President met with the joint leadership of Congress on the question of terrorism and the terrorism initiative. At the time, there was at a very general level a discussion of a funding initiative. Frankly, it took the time from then until now to develop what we think is a carefully prepared and thorough review of what resource requirements are. So we think -- we indicated an intention to come forward with this. It's something that's going to have to be negotiated between us, the administration and the Congress in the course of resolving the 1997 appropriations process. We think it's a matter of highest priority, and are confident that we can negotiate a successful conclusion.
Q What specific evidence do you have that makes it the highest priority?
MR. LEW: Well, I think the steps taken in here are steps that we feel are necessary to take to protect Americans when they travel, to protect people in public buildings.
Q What specific evidence that you have that you need to protect Americans when they travel that requires this expenditure?
MR. LEW: I think that it's safe to say that the situation that we face has been evolving, and we've attempted, as there is a greater understanding of the threats, to make sure that we're taking the appropriate level of precautions in terms of funding that we request.
I don't want to get into questions of what specific threat. These are prudential measures that reflect a careful scrutiny of how we allocate resources for security, both in the case of airline travel, airlines and airports, and in the case of federal buildings, it's very consistent with what we did after Oklahoma City. It's not a new problem. I would say that if we had waited a few months, many of these issues would have been addressed in the context of the '98 budget. So I don't want to suggest that these are issues that came up only because there was a review July-August. I think the sense of national urgency speaks for itself as to why we should be doing it now as opposed to why wait until February.
Q I'm sorry, what is the national urgency? You say it speaks for itself, but what is it?
MR. LEW: I think that this is an attempt to respond to a public that wants us to be doing what we can be doing, reasonably, to protect facilities for which the U.S. government is responsible and activities which we oversee.
Q Is the $1 billion over just one year?
MR. LEW: Yes, it's a one-year number. In fact, some of the money will be proposed in the form of a Fiscal Year '96 supplemental appropriation request, some of the money in a Fiscal '97 request. But the total will be available in roughly the same period of time, because we're approaching October 1st.
Q Do you have offsets to keep that from increasing the deficit?
MS. KAMARCK: Let me just go back to this point. We've seen in the wake, particularly, of the TWA 800 accident that there has been a lot -- many of you actually have written about security lapses, holes in airports, et cetera, whether that, in and of itself, increases the risk, okay. We think that there has been a pattern we've seen in the country in the last year or so with Oklahoma City, whatever the cause of TWA is, where we feel that these are prudent things to do at this period in time. It's just a way to protect ourselves better.
Q Could you answer the question that I had on the floor? Are there offsets to the $1 billion?
MR. LEW: I think before we approach the conversations with the Congress I'd rather not be too specific. But it was clear at the time we set on the course of identifying the needs that it would have to be resolved in the context of negotiating out final both defense and domestic discretionary spending totals for '97. We think there's room within the currently available resources to do much of this, and if there is a need to augment it, we're prepared to pursue those options.
Q Is that what's stopping their higher defense spending request?
MR. LEW: I'd rather not comment on the specific ways to pay for it until we proceed to the conversations with them. But that would be an option, yes.
Q Elaine, typically when Congress, whenever new technology has been deployed at airports, Congress has gotten down to the point of actually earmarking which airports, or whether it should be passengers or flights. You haven't described your deployment method, and I wonder if --
MS. KAMARCK: It's a very good question. The deployment method is, in fact, implicit in here as follows: The first thing that the President ordered is for every airport to convene all the players at that airport into one unified group consortia to look at aviation security questions.
Secondly, the FAA will help every major airport and then get to the smaller ones to do threat assessments. The deployment of the technology will be based upon the threat assessment and the things found from the threat assessment. There is, in fact, even in here a small budget request so that we can use some of the sophisticated technology developed by the government's Sandia Laboratories in doing threat assessments of airports.
So again, the deployment of these machines is part of a system-wide look -- airport led by the FAA.
Q How many airports do you think you can realistically cover in the first go-around?
MS. KAMARCK: I think we'll start with the biggest ones. Obviously, we will start with the biggest ones, but we will eventually cover all of them. The order to convene these security groups applies to every single commercial airport in the United States. There are 450 of them.
Q A question about the bomb detection equipment. It's my understanding it doesn't work very well. What's the -- what do you understand about its effectiveness?
MS. KAMARCK: We -- what the FAA is finding when the equipment is in operation at the three airports they've had it in operation, that it does work well; that as they have it in operation they figure out ways to make it work better.
And understand also that we are not relying solely on one piece of equipment. The reason we are doing passenger profiling, the reason we are asking for not just detection equipment for luggage, but scanners for people and scanners for hand-carried luggage, et cetera, is that you can only do this if you use a variety of systems and equipment to make sure that nothing is getting through. So we think that this equipment is working well.
Also, we do not want to get into the position that the government has been in in the past, where the perfect was the enemy of the good. We've been -- the government's been criticized for waiting until every single thing was fixed in the equipment before buying it; we don't think we need to do that.
Q Well, if it has in some cases, in some tests, detected bombs falsely, in 50 percent of the times it's been asked to find --
MS. KAMARCK: It's not that high, it's not 50 percent.
Q Why not put money into developing the technology? Why not --
MS. KAMARCK: We are. We are. Oh, yes, there's $20 million more in R&D, which we add to $30 million we're already spending, and we asked the private sector to add another $50 million, to give us $100 million fund for R&D, because the R&D is really, obviously, where the work is needed.
Q Is that just on the machines, the R&D?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes, just to look at machines and technology.
Q Regardless of exactly how the financing for this works out, does today's announcement and the President's acceptance of these recommendations imply a greater and permanently greater federal commitment of federal resources for this problem, as opposed to resources gathered from private airlines and put to use in the problem, as I gather has been the principal means of financing this?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes. If you look at what we're saying in here, we are stepping up -- the federal government is stepping up to the plate in a significant way in the purchase of these equipments in this area. Some of this is, in fact, a national security threat. When terrorists bomb an airplane they're not targeting a company, they're targeting the United States of America.
But we also have things in here that will cost the airlines money. And the idea here is to establish a partnership that is not only an operational partnership airport by airport, but is a financial partnership where we don't ask the private sector to bear all the costs, but we do ask them to bear some of the costs. And we do -- the government does, as well.
Q What's the identifiable cost that you're asking the airlines to bear in these proposals today?
MS. KAMARCK: That's not clear. That's not clear today, and I'll let the airlines talk for themselves. But in some of these instances -- passenger bag match, et cetera -- there will be costs.
Q But as a factor of the billion, I mean, will the government match one-fifth of what the total cost is going to be?
MS. KAMARCK: That's impossible to say.
MR. LEW: It's important to note, though, that the billion is not all airline safety.
Q Yes, that's my second question actually, if I could -- about that. I mean, do you think Congress might fairly accuse you of throwing in a bunch of ancillary kitchen sink items here to -- under the -- very threatening question of airline security, you're asking for a whole bunch of wish list --
MR. LEW: Well, I think with regard to, particularly, the Defense Department items on the list -- the Khobar towers incident occurred, you know, this summer as well and the need to relocate the troops is unquestioned, the need to have perimeter protections and to take steps is clear. Frankly, we weren't waiting for signals from commissions or Congress, we took a review internally to find out what do we need to do to take the highest reasonable level of precautions. And that's what this reflects there.
Q So it's a general cleanup of your needs in that regard?
MR. LEW: Well, it was to review the threat as best defined at the moment and what steps ought to be taken. And with regard to domestic buildings, the fact of the matter is that we all want our public buildings, our museums, our monuments, the places where people gather to be safe. People can disagree as to what steps should be taken. These steps conform to the guidelines that we developed after Oklahoma City and we think those are the appropriate standards for us to meet. I would hope that we don't have a partisan debate on this.
On the question of funding, I didn't mean to dismiss the question. We certainly are proposing a reduction in the congressional levels of defense spending, and we certainly are proposing that there are funds available to reallocate to meet other need. What we are saying is that these are amongst the highest priority needs for which funds, when they are reallocated, need to be used for. And it's going to be -- we have other high priorities, as you all know, and we're saying that this is on our list of high priorities. So we have a month to work it out with the Congress, and I would hope that this is one of the easier matters to resolve.
Q The President mentioned a full passenger bag match at selected airports. Will that be done on a largest airport basis?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes. We will begin by requiring every airline to conduct full passenger bag match at one airport, including at least one hub, because the argument has been that this full passenger bag match domestically will unduly disrupt airport operations or airline operations. We don't believe that's the case. We believe there's technologies that can be used. We believe, with some ingenuity and reengineering, we can move to full passenger bag match.
Q What does that mean? Can you explain?
MS. KAMARCK: That basically means that no bag gets on an airplane without somebody knowing that there is a person on that plane responsible for that bag. This is now done internationally, okay, but it is not done domestically. And it has been one of the things that I think the families of certainly Pan Am 103 and many of the other air disasters have lobbied for for quite a long time. It's been slowed down, and we intend to implement the test immediately and then move to full passenger bag match for --
Q How does that affect a passenger when they show up? What do they do differently?
MS. KAMARCK: You probably won't even notice it. What it will affect is the airlines having to make sure that they've got the technology to make sure that every bag is accounted for, that you're not slipping bags on quickly on to a flight, perhaps after a connection, and the passenger is walking off the plane. We know in, for instance, some of the terrorist incidents that have been caught that people have done just that -- checked bags on a plane and gotten off at the connection point and set a bomb. So this is obviously one important way to deter that, one of many.
Q Couldn't it involve earlier arrival times, and things like that --
MS. KAMARCK: Look, our effort here is to get the airlines to figure out how to do this in their own systems. We don't want to be -- we don't believe that the United States government ought to start running airline business. What we do know is what we want them to do, and we're going to, through these partnerships, hopefully, let the private sector figure out the best way to come up with this.
Q Could you talk a little bit more about the passenger profile system and some of the concerns that civil rights groups have about that?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes. Again, as I go back to the system of systems approach, there isn't any silver bullet here. Therefore, to make the technology most useful and most effective you have to use it in conjunction with some kind of profiling system which gives you -- let's you separate out people according to the level of risk that they may or may not have to a flight or to an airplane.
We use this in the government very effectively in the United States Customs, and our primary example there is that the Miami Airport for the last year, they reengineered all their operations using extensive profiling of passengers so that they're able to do two things which previously we thought you couldn't do at once -- move passengers faster and increase their findings of drugs -- and they've done both those things since last June when they started this.
Profiling on bombers-terrorists is a little bit more complicated than profiling on drug smugglers because, fortunately, there are fewer of them. Nevertheless, we call in this for the development of profiling and a sophisticated system that we can use in conjunction with the technology. That also lessens the burden --back to your earlier question, it also lessens the burden on the technology.
Q So it would only have to do with people who might have a known criminal background, or just based on the country --
MS. KAMARCK: Part of this is figuring out how to use existing crime files and other characteristics that we do not for obvious reasons talk about in public. The Vice President has, in fact, ordered that we put together an advisory group of people interested in civil liberties questions to make sure that in the development of this profiling, we are not violating civil liberties. We don't feel that this will.
Q And document scanner -- what do they scan for?
MS. KAMARCK: Oh, traces of explosives and things like that.
Q What sort of documents?
MS. KAMARCK: Anything.
Q What about the discussion of the antimissile technology?
MS. KAMARCK: There is, as you know -- there is available antimissile technology. Obviously, our Air Force has it, et cetera. It is extraordinarily expensive, and certainly at this point impractical for commercial aviation.
Nevertheless, with a perceived threat of perhaps missiles -- and that's still a live option for the TWA investigation, as are the other two options, we felt it was good, and we have, as you know, some very famous scientists on our commission. They, in conjunction with the Air Force, will have a look at the feasibility of some kind of missile defense system down the road.
Q -- electronic countermeasures and things like that?
MS. KAMARCK: All sorts of things, yes.
Q Are there any depots or bases firing missiles where commercial planes are operating? I mean, is there no communication?
MS. KAMARCK: I don't know, Helen.
Q Aren't you turning this country into an armed camp? It's going to be another White House were you can't move and you can't -- all of these measures seem to be just tightening up on everyone's freedom to move.
MS. KAMARCK: I don't believe we're tightening up except to take some prudent measures to make sure that people are not killed when there are innocent civilians trying to go about taking an airplane ride, and that's all we're trying to do.
MR. MCCURRY: Although you've recommended for first-year financing the use of appropriated funds, do you see as possibility higher aviation taxes for long-term financing?
MS. KAMARCK: I don't know yet. That's one of the things we will look at, but I don't really know yet.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Elaine, thank you, Jack.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:21 P.M. EDT