Travel

Due for a Risk Assessment, Phoenix Airports Could See New Security Plan

Phoenix airports could get an updated comprehensive security plan after having spent over a decade without one.
Phoenix airports could get an updated comprehensive security plan after having spent over a decade without one. Ray Stern
The last time Phoenix airports implemented a comprehensive security action plan was 2004. The last time the plan was updated? 2009.

If a decade-plus without a comprehensive risk assessment for our airports seems like a long time, know that the city agrees with you.

This week, a City Council subcommittee tasked with aviation recommended that the Council send out a request for proposals to find a consulting firm that can identify risks to airport security and suggest improvements. According to the city's Aviation Department, a firm would identify "highly sensitive safety and security risks and vulnerabilities."

After Council members on the Downtown, Aviation, Economy, and Innovation Subcommittee approved the item on Wednesday, the request for proposals is on its way for the full Council's approval.

The assessment would apply to three Phoenix airports: Sky Harbor International Airport, Deer Valley Airport, and Goodyear Airport.

click to enlarge Sky Harbor Airport is among the nation's busiest airports, and saw almost 44 million passengers last year. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Sky Harbor Airport is among the nation's busiest airports, and saw almost 44 million passengers last year.
Lauren Cusimano
In an email, Deputy Aviation Director for Public Relations Julie Rodriguez said that Phoenix's 2004 security overview led to recommendations, which the airports later implemented.

This time around, the Aviation Department is seeking "recommendations of available technology and resources for the Airport’s physical and cyber security," Rodriguez wrote.

As for what these physical and cybersecurity improvements could entail, the city is pretty much mum — according to Rodriguez, that information is classified as "sensitive security information" under the Federal Code of Regulations.

The proposed contract with the firm is for two years and includes the option of three one-year extensions.

Sky Harbor is among the nation's busiest airports, with almost 44 million passengers last year. The Southwestern travel hub has also been the testing ground for a screening process that uses 3-D imagery on carry-on bags. But so far, Sky Harbor hasn't experienced the use of advanced screening methods. The TSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are slowly rolling out facial-recognition technology and fingerprint scanners in airports in cities like Boston and Atlanta.

"It's important to note that the Phoenix Aviation Department is always evaluating, assessing and updating security measures," Rodriguez wrote. "Bringing in a consultant with expertise in this area is one piece of the Airport’s ongoing security program and is standard in the industry."
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty