President Bush urged Americans to take to the skies again, and outlined his proposals today for new security measures on commercial airliners.
Speaking at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to a crowd of flag-waving airline workers, Bush gave a pep talk to the troubled airline industry and the "traveling public," returning again and again to his theme that the terrorists who hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon did not break the American spirit.
"They thought they attacked America and hurt us. No. We are stronger than ever and we're going to prove it. May God bless America," he concluded to a roaring ovation.
The plan Bush laid out included turning over airport security to federal agents, making tougher security standards consistent nationwide, and putting more plainclothes federal marshals on commercial flights.
To boost security immediately, he said he is authorizing state governors to call up National Guard troops to carry out inspections of passengers and baggage at airports. He also said he is proposing $500 million in new funding to pay for security measures.
Several governors, including those in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and Kentucky, were among those to move quickly in response to Bush's request to mobilize National Guard units. As of today, more than 16,200 National Guard and reservists have been called to active duty in the wake of the terror attacks.
In Chicago, Bush did not mention an order giving two regional Air Force commanders new powers to order commercial airliners to be shot down without presidential authorization, "to protect the American public" if lines of communication break down.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed today that the order was given as a method of streamlining the chain of command in rules of engagement, in extreme situations, but said there was no reason for concern.
The two regional air commanders in the United States — Maj. Gen. Larry K. Arnold, a two-star officer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, who has authority for the continental United States, and Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, a three-star general at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska — are the two given the power to issue shoot-down orders, according to senior officials at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The new rules delegate authority to the generals only in the most extreme circumstances, and if NORAD is unable to communicate with either the president or the entire National Command Authority and "all means of communication are exhausted," according to a NORAD official.