WASHINGTON — The House Homeland Security Committee came to the conclusion Wednesday that airlines and airports need more local flexibility and delegating power from federal Transportation Security Administration officials in Washington in order to help shorten lines at TSA security check points.
“I think we need to address this problem now, and I think one of the biggest takeaways that I have is the lack of transparency and a lack of local input that each of the airports and airline authorities have with the local TSA field rep director,” Homeland Security Chairman [crscore]Michael McCaul[/crscore] told reporters. “There appears to be a line of non-communication centralized here in Washington.”
The committee met with top airline executives and airport authorities about how to handle the long lines and delays happening at U.S. airports. McCaul says he spoke to TSA administrator Admiral Peter Neffenger, who will be testifying before the committee about the issue next Wednesday. The committee says it is hard pressed to accomplish a practical short-term solution before the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the year’s peak flow of traffic through the airports.
McCaul explained, “They’re centralized and all the decisions are being made out of Washington with no flexibility on staffing decisions, that if they have local input from the airlines and airport authorities it could result in a lot of these problems. If you don’t know the peak airline times of when the planes are coming in, how can you possibly staff and have a model that makes any sense?”
“We intend to introduce legislation before the recess next week to address this problem. The flexibility issue is a huge problem we heard [about] from the airlines and airport associations in terms of the local director doesn’t have discretion over where to staff the TSO or TSA officer. We believe that would go a long way,” said McCaul.
“In addition, the off duty overtime would put more of these officers on the front line. The behavioral detection officers are about 3,000. Of them, we think they should be the ones doing the initial screening rather than sitting or wandering around the airport watching people,” he said. “That would be 3,000 TSO officers we could reconvert to do a job, they’re already trained to do in the first place.”
Last December, Congress did pass a re-programming of TSA to authorize a hiring of 768 more officers who will become available to work in June. McCaul and the committee also believes that more passengers should be encouraged to enter the TSA Pre Check program, claiming that doing so would also make the security process at the airports go faster.
The Chairman stressed that they will mot compromise safety or security with any changes made and that the “bad report card” TSA received in the past, with a 95 percent failure rate, resulted in stepped screening process and longer lines at the check points.