WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is dramatically expanding the federal government's role in aviation security, eager to reassure jittery passengers heading into the Thanksgiving week travel crush.
Bush was signing a sweeping package of legislative changes Monday at Reagan Washington National Airport, the last major U.S. airport to reopen following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The bill was the product of weeks of negotiations in Congress, and it contains provisions that Bush resisted.
The federal government will assume control of passenger and baggage screening operations, now run by private security firms contracted by airlines, and put all 28,000 screeners on the federal payroll.
Bush wanted most of them to remain employees of private companies, to give airports, airlines and the government more flexibility in hiring and firing them.
For three years after the law goes into effect all airports must be under the federal system, except for five airports of different sizes that can apply for pilot programs trying different screening approaches. After that, airports can opt out of the federal system.
The measure also moves toward 100 percent inspection of checked bags and seeks to ensure that a potential hijacker who gets into a plane will be stopped by air marshals in the cabin and reinforced cockpit doors.
Few signs of change will be evident immediately.
The government will have a year to take control of passenger and baggage screening operations and to put all 28,000 screeners on the federal payroll.
Among the more immediate effects of the new law will be a heightened law enforcement presence. The package requires at least one law enforcement officer at every screening post at major airports.
In addition, more checked bags will be inspected. Airports have 60 days to initiate plans to increase such screening, with a deadline of the end of 2002 for subjecting all checked bags to explosives detection screening.
Travelers will feel one change early next year: To pay for the beefed-up security, the measure levies a $2.50 security fee each time a passenger boards a plane, with a $5 maximum for a one-way trip with multiple legs.
Later Monday, Bush was addressing an Iftaar dinner for Muslims, traditionally held at the end of daylong fasts through the month of Ramadan, in the White House's State Dining Room.
He was also meeting with his Cabinet and issuing the annual presidential pardon for the Thanksgiving turkey.
On Sunday, Bush fished with his father, the former president before leaving his central Texas ranch for Washington.
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