Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
April 23, 2004  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Urges Ridge To Expedite Protection Of U.S. Commercial Aircraft From Threat Of Shoulder-Fired Missiles  

Washington, DC - Prompted by reports that the Israeli Department of Transportation is in the process of equipping Israeli commercial aircraft with countermeasure systems to defend against shoulder-fired missiles, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called on Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to expedite the protection of U.S. commercial aircraft to the end of this year.

Attached please find a copy of the Senator's letter to Secretary Ridge:

----------

April 23, 2004

The Honorable Tom Ridge
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Ridge:

For more than a year, I have been calling on the Department of Homeland Security to accelerate efforts to protect U.S. commercial aircraft from the threat of shoulder-fired missiles.

These weapons, also known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), are widely proliferated, relatively easy to use, available on the black market and in the possession of more than two dozen terrorist and non-state groups throughout the world. Al Qaeda is suspected of being behind previous shoulder-fired missile attacks against both commercial and military aircraft.

Today, the Israeli Department of Transportation announced it was in the process of equipping Israeli commercial aircraft with countermeasure systems and that the first protected aircraft will be flying by this June. By comparison, under the plan presented to Congress by the Department of Homeland Security, the earliest a decision will be made to protect U.S. commercial aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles is 2006.

Mr. Secretary, it is important that we protect our commercial aircraft against the threat of shoulder-fired missiles. Government contractors have been quoted as saying that they could move much faster in providing countermeasure systems.

In light of Israel's actions and the obvious availability of appropriate technology, I ask that you accelerate the current DHS timetable so that our most vulnerable aircraft are protected by the end of this year.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,