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John K.
Republican NY 24

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  • Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015

    by Representative John Katko

    Posted on 2015-02-10

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    KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 720) to improve intergovernmental planning for and communication during security incidents at domestic airports, and for other purposes.



    The Clerk read the title of the bill.

    The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 720 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015''.

    SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act: (1) Assistant secretary.--The term ``Assistant Secretary'' means the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security) of the Department of Homeland Security.

    (2) Administration.--The term ``Administration'' means the Transportation Security Administration.

    [[Page H895]] SEC. 3. SECURITY INCIDENT RESPONSE AT AIRPORTS.

    (a) In General.--The Assistant Secretary shall, in consultation with the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, conduct outreach to all airports in the United States at which the Administration performs, or oversees the implementation and performance of, security measures, and provide technical assistance as necessary, to verify such airports have in place individualized working plans for responding to security incidents inside the perimeter of the airport, including active shooters, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger-screening checkpoints.

    (b) Types of Plans.--Such plans may include, but may not be limited to, the following: (1) A strategy for evacuating and providing care to persons inside the perimeter of the airport, with consideration given to the needs of persons with disabilities.

    (2) A plan for establishing a unified command, including identification of staging areas for non-airport-specific law enforcement and fire response.

    (3) A schedule for regular testing of communications equipment used to receive emergency calls.

    (4) An evaluation of how emergency calls placed by persons inside the perimeter of the airport will reach airport police in an expeditious manner.

    (5) A practiced method and plan to communicate with travelers and all other persons inside the perimeter of the airport.

    (6) To the extent practicable, a projected maximum timeframe for law enforcement response.

    (7) A schedule of joint exercises and training to be conducted by the airport, the Administration, other stakeholders such as airport and airline tenants, and any relevant law enforcement, airport police, fire, and medical personnel.

    (8) A schedule for producing after-action joint exercise reports to identify and determine how to improve security incident response capabilities.

    (c) Report to Congress.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary shall report to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate on the findings from its outreach to airports under subsection (a), including an analysis of the level of preparedness such airports have to respond to security incidents, including active shooters, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger- screening checkpoints.

    SEC. 4. DISSEMINATING INFORMATION ON BEST PRACTICES.

    The Assistant Secretary shall-- (1) identify best practices that exist across airports for security incident planning, management, and training; and (2) establish a mechanism through which to share such best practices with other airport operators nationwide.

    SEC. 5. CERTIFICATION.

    Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Assistant Secretary shall certify in writing to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate that all screening personnel have participated in practical training exercises for active shooter scenarios.

    SEC. 6. REIMBURSABLE AGREEMENTS.

    Not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary shall provide to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate an analysis of how the Administration can use cost savings achieved through efficiencies to increase over the next 5 fiscal years the funding available for checkpoint screening law enforcement support reimbursable agreements.

    SEC. 7. NO ADDITIONAL AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

    No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act, and this Act shall be carried out using amounts otherwise available for such purpose.

    SEC. 8. INTEROPERABILITY REVIEW.

    (a) In General.--Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary shall, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, conduct a review of the interoperable communications capabilities of the law enforcement, fire, and medical personnel responsible for responding to a security incident, including active shooter events, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger-screening checkpoints, at all airports in the United States at which the Administration performs, or oversees the implementation and performance of, security measures.

    (b) Report.--Not later than 30 days after the completion of the review, the Assistant Secretary shall report the findings of the review to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Katko) and the gentlewoman from New York (Miss Rice) each will control 20 minutes.

    The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.

    General Leave Mr. KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include any extraneous material on the bill under consideration.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York? There was no objection.

    Mr. KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 720, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015.

    H.R. 720 is a bipartisan measure I introduced to enhance preparedness at our Nation's airports for responding to active shooters and other security incidents.

    The legislation was championed last Congress by my predecessor, the former chairman of the Transportation Security Subcommittee, Mr. Hudson, in response to the tragic shooting at Los Angeles International Airport in November of 2013.

    The shooting at LAX took the life of Transportation Security Officer Hernandez and wounded two other TSA officers and one passenger. The event highlighted vulnerabilities in airport preparedness, including in the areas of incident command, communication with travelers, communication between TSA and law enforcement, and evacuation measures. H.R. 720 would apply lessons learned and help close gaps in preparedness at other U.S. airports around the country.

    Mr. Speaker, the time to act is now. Everyone within the airport community--from law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, to airport and airline personnel, to TSA officials and the traveling public--must know how to respond to an active shooter or other threat inside the airport.

    If not, we risk repeating the communication and coordination challenges among responding agencies that were well documented in the aftermath of the LAX shooting. There is no excuse for such inaction.

    Many airports have taken their own steps following the shooting to strengthen preparedness and response plans, and they should be applauded for that.

    H.R. 720 would require TSA to verify that airports maintain plans for evacuating travelers, conducting joint exercises within the airport community, establishing unified command posts during security incidents, and testing radio equipment.

    The bill would also make TSA a clearinghouse for security incident response and communications best practices--a key recommendation from the airport community--as well as require the agency to certify to Congress that all screening personnel have participated in active shooter training.

    H.R. 720 explicitly does not authorize any new spending to implement these commonsense measures. TSA continues to achieve millions of dollars in cost savings with risk-based programs such as TSA Precheck, and I believe the agency must continually prioritize its resources to address real threats to the traveling public.

    This bipartisan bill was developed with public and private sector input following multiple subcommittee hearings, site visits, meetings, and afteraction reviews conducted by both the TSA and Los Angeles World Airports.

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Chairman McCaul, Ranking Member Thompson, Ranking Member Rice, Congressman Hudson, and other bipartisan cosponsors of the bill for joining me in introducing this legislation and for their strong support in getting this legislation to the floor today.

    I urge my colleagues to support the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

    Miss RICE of New York. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 720, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015, and yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is named in honor of Officer Gerardo Hernandez, a Transportation Security Administration officer who was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty on November 1, 2013, at Los Angeles International Airport.

    Officer Hernandez was the first TSA employee ever to be killed in the line [[Page H896]] of duty, and this bill that bears his name seeks to better prepare our Nation's airports to respond to such security incidents in hopes that we can prevent another TSA officer, airport employee, or passenger from suffering the same fate.

    That morning in November 2013, a man entered LAX with a semiautomatic rifle, a bagful of ammunition, and the intent to target TSA officers. After killing Officer Hernandez at the TSA checkpoint, the man proceeded into the secure area of the terminal where he shot and wounded two more TSA officers and a civilian.

    Those two TSA officers heroically continued to help passengers escape to safety while the shooter made it as far as the food court at the end of the terminal before he was shot and wounded by LAX police officers.

    The men and women of the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department and all emergency responders who arrived on the scene that morning acted bravely and swiftly prevented further loss of life despite tremendous communications challenges.

    It is with those men and women and all emergency responders in mind that I rise to support this bill because this incident exposed serious deficiencies in planning, preparedness, and communication that must be corrected for the safety of emergency responders and all who use and work in our airports.

    Mr. Speaker, H.R. 720 would implement commonsense security measures to ensure that our Nation's airports have in place individualized strategies for responding to a security incident such as an active shooter scenario or an act of terrorism.

    This bill also specifically requires TSA to provide information to airports on best practices for responding to a security incident at checkpoints; provide Transportation Security officers with practical training for responding to active shooter scenarios; and conduct a nationwide assessment of the interoperable communications capabilities of the law enforcement, fire, and medical personnel responsible for responding to an active shooter event at an airport.

    These requirements are informed by postincident reviews conducted by TSA and LAX, as well as hearings and oversight work conducted by the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security.

    Mr. Speaker, prior to my time here in Congress, I understand that the Subcommittee on Transportation Security also visited LAX to see firsthand how the tragedy unfolded and hear from TSA airport officials and the American Federation of Government Employees about how the response to a similar incident can be improved going forward.

    I hope that we can continue that productive dialogue with LAX and our other airports and work together to better prepare for such violence in the airport environment.

    We will never forget what happened at LAX on November 1, 2013, nor can we afford to forget the lessons to be learned from that tragic day. The threats to our Nation's airports are ceaseless and constantly evolving. There could be another attack on any given day at any given airport. We must assume that it will happen. We must be more prepared. We must do better. We owe it to Officer Hernandez and his family.

    That is why I rise today in support of H.R. 720, and I urge all of my colleagues to pass this important bill.

    With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

    Mr. KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time and look forward to the comments from the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Waters).

    Miss RICE of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Waters), the ranking member on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services whose district encompasses Los Angeles International Airport.

    Ms. MAXINE WATERS of California. I thank the gentlewoman for the time.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 720, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015. I would like to thank Congressman John Katko, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security of the House Committee on Homeland Security, for reintroducing this bill. I was proud to join him as an original cosponsor.

    I would like to thank Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, and our Subcommittee Ranking Member Kathleen Rice for supporting this bill and bringing it to the floor for a vote.

    Mr. Speaker, this bipartisan bill was originally introduced last year in response to the horrific November 1, 2013, shooting incident at Los Angeles International Airport in my congressional district.

    This bill is named in honor of Gerardo Hernandez, the Transportation Security officer who was killed in the line of duty on that tragic day. As we debate this bill, we offer our deepest condolences to the family of Gerardo Hernandez, and we honor all of the TSOs, police officers, and other first responders who risked their lives to stabilize the situation and protect the public during that terrible incident.

    Following the LAX shooting incident, Congress conducted several hearings on the incident, including a field hearing in my district on March 28, 2014. These hearings revealed serious security lapses which interfered with response efforts, such as emergency phones and panic buttons that did not work properly, problems in coordination between various police and fire departments, and incompatible radio systems. These security failures are unacceptable.

    The Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to conduct outreach to airports to verify that they have working plans to respond to security incidents, including active shooter incidents, acts of terrorism, and incidents that target passenger screening checkpoints like the one where Officer Hernandez was killed.

    {time} 1730 It is imperative that major airports like LAX have state-of-the-art emergency response systems. The safety and security of our Nation's airports, and of all of the workers and travelers who pass through them, is of paramount importance. I urge my colleagues to support this bill and send it to the President's desk.

    Miss RICE of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to thank Subcommittee Chairman Katko for the bipartisan, inclusive, and constructive way in which he has conducted the subcommittee's response to this incident. I am proud to join Ranking Member Thompson and Chairman McCaul as an original cosponsor of H.R. 720. This is bipartisan legislation that was unanimously passed by the House last Congress, and I urge my colleagues to do the same with this bill.

    I strongly believe that with our votes today, we will not only honor the life of Officer Hernandez, we have the opportunity to save lives, be they transportation security officers, airport workers, or members of the flying public. At the end of the day, saving those lives is the best way we can honor Officer Hernandez and his family. I once again urge my colleagues to pass this bill.

    I yield back the balance of my time.

    Mr. KATKO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, the tragic event that unfolded at LAX in November of 2013 was a stark reminder that much remains to be done in securing America's transit hubs, particularly the nonsterile or nonsecure side of airports that are in many ways just like open shopping malls.

    Given this reality, we must ensure that airport communities are prepared to respond swiftly to any major security incidents that threaten the safety of the traveling public. In remembrance of Transportation Security Officer Hernandez, I urge my colleagues to pass this important legislation.

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