The Australian Federal Government has announced that it will spend $200 million over four years to boost security at Australian airports. However, industry experts are concerned that physical security of the airport itself is again taking a back seat when compared to passenger security measures.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the package of measures would include a range of new screening technologies for airline passengers, such as the latest body scanners, the next generation of multi-view X-ray machines and bottle scanners, which could detect liquid-based explosives.

Investments in most areas of security

Funds will also be directed to additional screening at regional airports, increasing the number of firearm and explosive-detection dogs at major airports by 50% and maintaining the presence of Australian Federal Police officers at big airports.

More stringent training standards for screening staff, new initiatives to boosting security co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region for international flights, increased intelligence sharing between customs and law enforcement agencies, as well as advanced data analysis and risk profiling to help identify suspected security risks are all in the planning.

The government will introduce a number of measures to help secure Australia’s air cargo supply chain, including contributing to the cost of installing cargo X-ray screening and explosive trace detection technology at appropriate locations.
While these measures are all important to ensure the security of the Australian travelling public, spending on physical security appears to not have matched this investment and experts continue to warn that all areas of airport security should be improved.

Boost of physical airport security needed

Alec Owen of Future Fibre Technologies, a manufacturer of fibre optic perimeter intrusion detection systems used around the world to protect hundreds of critical infrastructures including airports, is one long-term advocate for increased perimeter spending at airports. “Tens of millions of dollars have been invested annually in airport security that people can see – baggage scanning, explosive checks, and passenger scans,” he says. “Behind the scenes however, few commercial airports have a comparable level of security or protection on their perimeters.”

Philip Baum, managing director of UK-based consultancy firm Green Light, who spoke at Arena International’s Counter Terrorism and Security conference in London recently, agrees that a radical overhaul of airport security that breaks with tradition and adequately protects against today’s threats is required around the world.

Rafi Ron, former head of security for Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion International Airport, says that even though no-expense-spared metal detectors may go some way in protecting flights, in about 80% of airports in developed countries there is inadequate security around the perimeter fence. This allows no end of possible threats to enter the runway and terminal areas.

Roger Henning from the firm Homeland Security Asia Pacific agrees that security on the tarmac is being overlooked. “If you have a fluorescent jacket and a torch, you can wander around at night,” he said.