WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a Senate panel Tuesday that the government needs to look for new ways to improve airport screening.
Chertoff told the Senate Appropriations Committee panel that he has instructed the head of the Transportation Security Administration to think "outside the box" and come up with ways to "re-engineer the process" in the next 30 to 45 days.
"Is there something that we have done in the past that we might eliminate or modify because, net-net, we have reduced the risk and something that originally has a purpose may no longer have a purpose?" he asked rhetorically during testimony.
Chertoff said his department is already testing technologies that "will be better and more efficient" than equipment currently deployed at airports.
He specifically mentioned millimeter wave technology, which scans a person's body to detect contraband. It is undergoing trial testing at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The administration is proposing to Congress that new equipment be purchased with revenue from a user fee.
Under a Department of Homeland Security proposal, airline passengers would pay a temporary surcharge of 50 cents per leg of travel, with a cap of one dollar for each one-way trip.
Chertoff said this would provide additional money to purchase and deploy the next generation of screening equipment, such as explosive-detection machines and in-line baggage screening systems.
But he said it may not be the best policy for the government to buy technologies that become obsolete quickly.
He also suggested that in the future, the government might lease such equipment or enter service contracts that would include equipment in the cost.
"I think that is a subject that we might profitably spend some time talking about," Chertoff said. E-mail to a friend