By Keith Laing - 04/20/11 01:35 PM EDT
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the end of color-coded terror alert system that has marked U.S. airports since 9/11, replacing it with what she calls a more specific system that will address targeted threats.
Under the new system, there will only be two categories when alerts are necessary: "elevated threat" and "imminent threat." Alerts will be issue to specific areas of concerns, not nationwide. They will also be delivered via traditional and social media.
“The terrorist threat facing our country has evolved significantly over the past 10 years, and in today’s environment — more than ever — we know that the best security strategy is one that counts on the American public as a key partner in securing our country,” she said in a statement announcing the decision.
“The National Terrorism Advisory System, which was developed in close collaboration with our federal, state, local, tribal and private sector partners, will provide the American public with information about credible threats so that they can better protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano did a round of television interviews Wednesday morning to talk up the new system. On NBC's "Today Show," she said the old color system was no longer effective because it confused passengers.
"We've been orange since 2006," she said. "What we are changing is to a system that actually gives people specificity, tells them what to do, what to prepare, what to look for and how to get more information."
"It would sunset in two weeks, so we get out of this business of cascading alerts," Napolitano added.
Napolitano said the new alert system will take effect April 26.
The homeland security secretary made the announcement a day after reports surfaced that an error by an air traffic controller forced a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife Jill to abort its landing because a military plane had not cleared the runaway yet.
Napolitano said the incident involving the first and second ladies did not show that the national aviation was vulnerable to another terrorist attack.
"Not in that sense from a terrorism exploitation thing," she said. "I think it's more of a concern about day-to-day aviation safety. Air traffic controllers are key to the safety of the aviation system overall."
She also praised the administration's response to that incident and to the rash or reports of air traffic controllers sleeping on the job.
"I think (Transportation) Secretary LaHood and the FAA are really looking internally about what they need to do, change process, procedures, training, staffing, all the things that go into making sure the air traffic control system remains safe," Napolitano said.