Legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at improving transportation security will be good for the entire country and especially for Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District, according to the bill’s sponsor.
The legislation provides for domestic breeding and training of dogs to detect explosives at airports and other transportation venues.
“I have long advocated for the use of canines in transportation security,” U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers said. “(They) are more efficient than any machine and more cost-effective. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security secures most of its canines from vendors in Europe, with just a few hundred coming from the U.S. This bill sets up the infrastructure to produce high-quality dogs to be trained for this important work here at home.”
The measure – drafted with input from the American Kennel Club, the Transportation Safety Administration, the Congressional Office of Science and Technology and researchers at Auburn University – also sets “quality uniform standards for training, sort of a ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,’” the congressman said. “This will be good for our district. Much of the research will be done at Auburn, and training will take place at Fort McClellan.”
The former Army post near Anniston is now home to the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Domestic Preparedness.
“I have spent a lot of time at borders, train stations and airports, and security is still struggling to find ways to keep explosive off planes,” said Rogers, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and former chairman of its transportation subcommittee. “While there is a variety of technology used to detect if a passenger has explosives, what we’ve found is that nothing is more effective than explosive detection canines.
According to the congressman, dogs trained for such tasks can “detect small, very minute amounts of explosives that machines can’t detect. It is hard for terrorists to disguise explosives from them, not matter how hard they try. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them. Our main source is Europe, and we’re competing with other countries for a very finite number of these canines. That bothers me, because we’re the United States of America. We should be able to set up our own breeding facilities to produce our own dogs.”
Greater numbers of explosive detection canines could result in the dogs being used in venues other than transportation centers, Rogers said.
“Terrorists are moving away from airports and toward soft targets, like arenas and concert venues. These canines can be every effective in those settings, and I believe we will start seeing more of them on cruise lines and events like SEC games, places where thousands and thousands of people are together in one place.”
The legislation was unanimously approved by the House with bipartisan support, which he believes it will have in the Senate. “I’m not concerned about it passing. It’s just a matter of when the Senate will get to it.”