The following is an excerpt from the transcript of the 22 June hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Aviation Security
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.Mr. Secretary, welcome. Only a tiny proportion of our pilots who want to be trained to carry guns in the cockpit to defend the aircraft should that be necessary have been trained. To me, it's rather scandalous, Mr. Chairman, 10 percent, only 10 percent of the eligible pilots who have applied. And, of course, moving forward at snail pace on flight attendant training now, the flight attendants and the pilots, you know, they're really the core of our defense on an aircraft, should it come under a hijacking. Here's the point. Why are you taking so long when we know, if there's a plane that's hijacked and it's not resolved, that plane is going to be shot out of the sky? When are you going to complete your training of the pilots who have applied? Only 10 percent have been certified. MR. HUTCHINSON: When you say 10 percent of all the pilots have been certified, this is a voluntary program. And so we really need to look at how many have applied for the program -- SEN. BOXER: I know those numbers, but I don't want to put it out here. I know the numbers. I know the numbers and I know that only 10 percent who have offered themselves up to do this have been approved. So can you give me a date on when you're planning to certify, let's say, one half of them? MR. HUTCHINSON: One, I agree completely with you that those who want to be certified ought to be trained and moved out and receive the certification as soon as possible. I have inquired and pushed in every aspect and my information does not match yours. So I think we need to meet on that -- SEN. BOXER: Well, fine. Why don't we meet on this? MR. HUTCHINSON: I'd be happy to. SEN. BOXER: Because I got this straight from the pilots. They want to do this. Let me move on to threat of shoulder-fired missiles and here I'd like to light a fire under you, if I can. And I know, if I just give you what my feelings are, if may not work. So I'm going to try and give you what other people are saying about this and I'm going to start off by telling you that we already protect our military aircraft. Thank God, we do that. We protect Air Force One, very important to do that. And I even understand that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is having countermeasures installed on his plane. Now, if he can install measures on his plane, why can't we protect the American people? Now, I want to tell you that 291 of our commercial fleet would be prepared to carry our military men and women should they be needed in the Stage 2 alert. It seems to me we ought to at least be protecting those planes now. The Senate, with the help of Senator McCain, we did pass -- I felt it was watered down -- but we passed something that said, Let's go ahead and protect that fleet. So here's what the secretary of the Air Force said, December '03, James Roche, "Man portable air defense systems, those are shoulder- fired missiles, are very clearly a threat to our organic aircraft flying in hostile areas and could pose a credible threat to our vital civilian Reserve Air Force assets." So okay, that's coming from the head of the Air Force. Then we have Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, U.S. Navy, director Defense Intelligence Agency. This is seriously very recent, February '04. Here is what he said, "A MANPAD attack against civilian aircraft would produce large number of casualties, international publicity and a significant economic impact on civil aviation. These systems are highly portable, easy to conceal, inexpensive, available in the global weapons market and instruction manuals are on the Net. Commercial aircraft are not equipped with countermeasures and commercial pilots are not trained in evasive measures. An attack could occur with little or no warning. Terrorists may attempt to capitalize on these vulnerabilities." Well, he was prescient. June 8th, 2004. This comes from the news -- I'm trying to find exactly who put this out. "Al-Qaeda warned yesterday that U.S. and European airliners and other, quote, "means of transportation" will be targets for terror attacks this summer." The grim warning was posted yesterday in the same Islamic website that broadcast the video of the beheading of American Nick Berg and was taken seriously by U.S. agencies. Quote, "everything related to those crusaders: compounds bases, means of transportation, especially Western and American airlines, will soon be the target of our future operations," the statement said. That's June 8th. And then I could go on. We have statements by the FBI. My time is running out. But here is the point I am making. Don't listen to me because I have been talking about this with several colleagues for a very long time, actually, six months after 9/11. You have a timetable that is looking at two years before you put anything on a plane. And I don't know what else we're supposed to do to get this administration to understand how critical this is. We're being warned by the people in the know in our government. This administration's own people are warning us and yet, every time I bring this up, it's a song and a dance and it's years and it's this and it's that. Could you just tell me your own personal view as to whether or not you see this as a threat, the possibility that we could be subjected to this type of attack and if you can help us move this faster than a two-year timetable? MR. HUTCHINSON: I think we're working very aggressively. We have, within the Science and Technology Directorate, a special program office set up for counter-MANPADS. The administration has, I believe it is $90 million that's devoted to research and contracts have been issued for three companies to develop a commercial solution that is cost effective for a MANPADS defense. We have something that is capable in the Armed Forces arena. We have to have a commercial application. That should be completed in a very quick fashion. SEN. BOXER: Date? MR. HUTCHINSON: Well, I was hesitant a little bit to give you that date. SEN. BOXER: Why? MR. HUTCHINSON: Why? Because I don't have the information. I want to make sure that I'm accurate. I'd be glad to get that information to you when we get the precise timeframe. SEN. BOXER: Well, I think the American people needs the information, Mr. Secretary, because if I were them and I read this, I'm nervous. I want to know what my government is doing to protect me. We've been warned and warned and warned again. MR. HUTCHINSON: Certainly, I agree with that but I think it's also important that we have the right technology. We don't want to endanger the population or the passengers because we have the wrong type of defense mechanism and technology on the aircraft. I think it's also obviously going to have a debate as to how this is paid for and where the cost burden falls. But we have to get the technology right first. That's what we are working very aggressively. In the meantime -- SEN. BOXER: Will you get me the date that you'll have that ready? MR. HUTCHINSON: We'll be happy to provide that to you. SEN. BOXER: Within the next couple of days? MR. HUTCHINSON: Certainly. The reason I don't have that, that's a Science and Technology that's supervising that. But we're also, as was pointed out, doing the investigative side and the assessment side to help on MANPADS defense at each individual airport. SEN. BOXER: Well, Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry. I finished. I just see a lot of foot dragging and I don't doubt your sincerity. But this department has it and this department has it. We need to act. This is the greatest country in the world. We can act on this.