Mississippi Lawmakers Welcome Delivery of Baggage Screening System at Tunica Airport

Cochran, Wicker & Thompson Say TSA Equipment Will Improve Security, Service at Tunica

July 8, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, along with Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, today welcomed the delivery of a baggage screening system for the Tunica Airport, an action that will upgrade its luggage processing procedures.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) delivered the Reveal CT-80 explosive detection system (EDS) to the airport Tuesday, and will move forward with performance verification tests this week to bring the system fully online.  Currently, all passenger bags at Tunica must be inspected by hand, often resulting in passenger bottlenecks and security concerns.
“This new baggage screening system should improve the overall efficiency at the Tunica Airport as luggage inspections move from hand searches to this sophisticated screening equipment.  Despite the current lack of commercial service, the Tunica Airport is among the busiest in the state because of charter enplanements by tourists,” said Senator Cochran, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.  “I am pleased with this action by the TSA, which should allow the Tunica Airport to improve security and properly accommodate its growing volume of visitors.”

“I appreciate the Transportation Security Administration recognizing the importance of placing cutting edge technology at the Tunica airport. This equipment will provide greater security, safety, and efficiency for all travelers using the airport,” Senator Wicker said.

“I applaud the Department of Homeland Security’s effort in moving forward with TSA’s strategic plan for enhanced aviation.  The explosive detection system will enhance aviation security and screening practices at Tunica airport, while supporting the President’s goals to stimulate the economy,” said Congressman Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The TSA delivery coincides with a congressional directive in the FY2009 Homeland Security Appropriations Act requiring the TSA to use at least $84.5 million of its EDS and Explosive Trace Detection (ETD) Procurement and Installation budget at small- and medium-sized airports, like the Tunica Airport.  The directive was spurred by 2008 Bureau of Transportation Statistics showing that more than 40 percent of all air passengers in the United States begin their travel at small and medium-sized airports.

Cochran, Wicker, and Thompson led the effort to ensure that small and medium-sized airports are given more equitable treatment in baggage screening procurement.

Congress provided the TSA, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, $294 million for EDS/EDT systems in FY2009, $84.5 million of which is to be used at small and medium-sized airports.

The FY2010 budget request for these airport security systems is $857 million. Cochran sponsored an amendment to the Senate version of the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill requiring at least 28 percent of these funds, about $240 million, be used at small and medium-sized airports.  The bill is being considered by the full Senate this week.