The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
One way or another, airline executives have pledged to meet the government's Jan. 18 deadline to start screening all baggage. These promises are welcome, but they do not guarantee smoother, tighter security operations -- or even uniform procedures -- at the nation's airports. At the very least, by this date all bags should be subjected to some combination of searches, dog-sniffing and matching with passenger manifests. But the number of effective and efficient bomb-detecting devices in place will not be sufficient; some experts say the government's goal of putting some 2,000 of these machines in airports by the end of the year will be difficult or impossible to achieve. That's not acceptable.
It's true that installing the detection machines this year will be a mighty scramble. In the Washington region, for example, Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International each will need 30 to 50 more machines; Dulles now has three and BWI five. Reagan National, with far fewer flights, has eight scanners and needs four to seven more. Floors at the airports will need shoring up to support the nine-ton machines, and some airport passages will have to be widened for the minivan-sized equipment. But until higher-tech, smaller-sized machinery is available, the airlines and airports must get on with the tasks.
Congress has more to do, too. It has yet to appropriate enough money for the Federal Aviation Administration to begin buying new scanners and supplying them to airports. The new Transportation Security Agency must step up recruitment and training of its security forces without lowering standards; more air marshals are needed as well. Controls on access to aircraft still vary too much; ground crews and others who service the airlines must be subject to more sophisticated background checks and identification systems. Air traffic control facilities in too many places remain insecure.
Travelers already are only too aware of inconveniences caused by additional equipment and security procedures. They ought at least to have the assurance of increased safety to match the inconvenience.
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