Some Security Duties May
WASHINGTON (AP) - Pentagon officials are trying to
shed some of the extra homeland security burden troops took on after the
Sept. 11 attacks.
Army Secretary Thomas White wants the Army
National Guard relieved of its security duties at the nation's airports in
the coming months, a spokesman said Thursday.
He wrote to
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta asking for civilian federal
employees to take over the jobs in the next two or three months, said Army
spokesman Col. Joe Allen.
Already this month, the Air Force said
it was rethinking how to handle extra security it has provided with air
patrols over American cities.
After terrorists crashed hijacked
airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania
countryside, President Bush asked state governors to post National Guard
troops at the nation's airports as a step to use federal control of
airline security to coax Americans back into the skies.
put some 6,000 Guard troops at more than 400 airports around the country.
Bush envisioned them there for up to six months, which would mean through
"That's what we needed - an immediate fix," Army
spokesman Allen said. "And the military can do that.
"But ... as
soon as a permanent solution can be implemented, the secretary has
indicated he would like to get the Guard out," Allen said. He said that's
what White told Mineta in his letter.
In it, White said he hoped
the transportation secretary could get the planned civilian security
operations in place at airports in the next 60 to 90 days, Allen said.
He said White asked the Mineta to get his security plan in
operation "as soon as possible ... so we can begin pulling the Guard
The Guard is needed to help out with next month's Winter
Olympics in Utah, other homeland security jobs and for their normal
duties, Allen said.
An Air Force contribution to Operation Noble
Eagle, the name for homeland defense, are jet fighter patrols that have
flown round-the-clock over Washington and New York and at random times
over other major metropolitan areas and crucial installations since Sept.
Some 250 airplanes and thousands of people staff the
operation, in which jets also are on alert at 30 bases to scramble if
called. The planes include some 100 fighter jets as well as tankers for
refueling in flight and AWACS - Airborne Warning and Control System -
planes for radar.
Officials knew from the outset that the
continuous use of manpower and equipment couldn't be kept up without end,
Now that four months have passed and aviation
security has been improved somewhat, some wonder if it might be time to
start talks about a scaled-back alternative to the patrols, the official
From Sept. 11 to Dec. 10, the operation flew 13,000 sorties.
The cost was $324 million, officials say.
The combat air patrols
are the first of their kind over the United States since the Cuban missile
crisis in 1962.
The fighter pilots have been mostly from Air
National Guard units.
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