Gov. Gray Davis announced Tuesday that he is deploying an infantry platoon of up to 50 National Guard troops to provide additional security at Los Angeles International Airport.
City officials have said police officers need help at a facility identified by the state as one of the top potential terrorist targets in California.
Unlike steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when Guard troops helped screen passengers in the terminals, the new deployment will be responsible for security at the entrances to terminals and around the perimeter of the airport, including the sand dunes west of the runways.
"The primary job of the National Guard will be to enhance the perimeter defense of the airport itself to preclude any terrorist attack on the airport," Davis said in a telephone call to Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn Tuesday afternoon.
Davis said the Guard troops plan to begin airport security patrols by Thursday, and will stay as long as the national security alert is at orange, which he said is likely to last for the remainder of the war in Iraq.
In explaining why LAX will get troops but other California airfields probably won't, Davis noted that the Los Angeles airport was on a list of Al Qaeda's potential targets for the beginning of 2000, that it topped a list of potential targets identified by state officials for security purposes and that it was the site of a July 4 shooting by a gunman.
At the advice of airport security officials, Hahn asked the governor for Guard assistance Saturday to help stand watch outside airline terminals, and "patrol the perimeter of the airport as a deterrent to shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles."
Though the deployment is less than what officials proposed, it will help the financially strapped city. The state will pick up the cost, which Davis said will be $110,000 for the first 10 days and then $14,000 per day. Davis said the state still hopes the federal government will reimburse the state's costs for added security.
"While we have done everything we can to make sure we've made it a safe airport, I think the additional layer of protection of National Guard ... will deter any possible acts of terrorism," Hahn told Davis.
Since the war began, the city has increased deployment of Los Angeles police officers from 50 to 80 officers during peak times to help the 240 sworn officers and 200 unarmed security officers working as part of the Airport Department's own police force.
Times staff writer Jennifer Oldham contributed to this report.