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Testimony of Gale D. Rossides, Acting Administrator, Transportation Security Administration Before the United States House Subcommittee on Homeland Security Committee on Appropriations

Release Date: 
May 19, 2010

Washington, D.C.
(Remarks as Prepared)

Good morning Chairman Price, Ranking Member Rogers, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 budget request for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the steps the TSA is taking to enhance transportation security.

I want to thank the Subcommittee for consistently ensuring that TSA has the resources to carry out its critical security mission and express my appreciation for your continued partnership in meeting the changing and challenging security threats that confront us. Today I will outline TSA's plans to protect the transportation sector and ask for your support of the President's FY 2011 budget request of $8.2 billion for TSA to help us meet these challenges.

Since 9/11, TSA has employed multiple layers to secure the aviation system and ensure the safety of the traveling public. Long before passengers reach the airport, TSA uses the latest intelligence to influence our daily operational decisions and to provide security information to public and private partners. Passengers are vetted against the No-Fly List to determine who should not receive a boarding pass for a flight to, from, or within the United States and the Selectee List to determine who must go through additional security measures. At the airport, our layered approach to security employs measures both seen and unseen by travelers. The 48,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) at hundreds of airports across the United States screen 1.8 million passengers and their baggage every day using advanced technology X-Ray systems, walk-through metal detectors, explosive trace detection equipment, trained canines, Bottled Liquid Scanners, Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), full-body pat-downs, and explosives detection systems both at the checkpoint and at other key locations in the airport. Bomb Appraisal Officers (BAOs), and Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs) also assist in the screening process. Through programs such as the Aviation Direct Access Screening Program, TSA also uses random and unpredictable measures to enhance security along the airport perimeter and in limited access areas of airports. The $1 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds provided to TSA for checkpoint and checked baggage screening technology have enabled TSA to greatly accelerate deployment of these critical tools to keep passengers safe.

To support in-flight security, Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) are deployed on domestic and international flights where international partners allow FAMs to enter their country on U.S.-flagged carriers. Thousands more pilots volunteer to serve as armed, deputized Federal Flight Deck Officers on domestic flights.

While we have made enormous strides to improve aviation security, terrorists continue to pose a threat to the United States; there is no silver bullet, nor any single measure that provides a 100 percent guarantee of security. Therefore, we cannot afford to become complacent.

The attempted attack on Northwest Flight 253 on Dec. 25, 2009, was a powerful reminder that terrorists will go to great lengths to defeat the security measures that have been put in place since September 11, 2001. As Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has testified at recent hearings, this Administration is determined to thwart terrorist plots and disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terrorist networks by employing and enhancing the multiple layers of defense that work in concert with one another to secure our country. This effort involves not just TSA, but components across the DHS and many other Federal agencies as well as State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector, and international partners. TSA works closely with other DHS agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), to continually evaluate and improve security programs and processes.

Following the first reports of an attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Flight 253 on Dec. 25, 2009, DHS immediately put in place additional security measures. TSA requested that the Federal Aviation Administration apprise all 128 U.S.-bound international flights from Europe of the attempted attack and asked them to maintain heightened vigilance on their flights. Increased security measures were put in place at domestic airports, including additional explosives detection canine teams, state and local law enforcement, expanded presence of BDOs, and enhanced screening. TSA conducted calls with all major airlines and the Air Transport Association and issued Security Directives and Emergency Amendments for all international flights to the U.S., which mandated enhanced screening prior to departure and additional security measures during flight.

On Jan. 3, DHS/TSA issued a new Security Directive, effective on Jan. 4 and still operational today, which includes security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners. This Security Directive mandates that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random additional screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights. These measures are being implemented with extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners.

These steps helped strengthen our security posture to face current threats to our country, yet as President Obama has made clear, we need to take additional actions to address the systemic vulnerabilities highlighted by this attack. At President Obama and Secretary Napolitano's direction, DHS and TSA are pursuing new initiatives to enhance the protection of air travel from acts of terrorism. The President's FY 2011 budget request would provide TSA with the resources it needs to carry out these critical new initiatives.

Enhanced Screening Technology

TSA is aggressively pursuing the deployment of enhanced screening technology to domestic airports and encouraging our international partners to do the same. While no technology is guaranteed to stop a terrorist attack, a number of technologies, when employed as part of a multi-layered security strategy, can increase our ability to detect dangerous materials.

To this end, TSA is accelerating deployment of AIT units to increase capabilities to identify materials such as those used in the attempted Dec. 25, 2009, attack. These efforts are already well underway. TSA has 40 machines deployed at 19 airports throughout the United States. Last September, TSA purchased 150 additional AIT units with ARRA funding, and this year, TSA expects to deploy these and at least 300 additional units across the country. The units purchased with ARRA funds are scheduled to be deployed to U.S. airports this summer, with the first units set to arrive at Boston Logan and Chicago O'Hare international airports next week. The President's FY 2011 budget requests $214.7 million to purchase and install an additional 500 AIT units at checkpoints, to bring the total number of AIT units to approximately 1,000. An additional $314.6 million is requested for 5,355 TSO positions to operate these AIT machines at their accelerated deployment pace.

TSA also continues to explore additional privacy protections for AIT machines through automated threat detection, which would transmit images only when an alarm is triggered. In collaboration with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, the security technology industry, and our international partners, software development is currently underway and will be followed by testing to ensure effective detection with minimal false alarms.

TSA is also increasing assets in the area of explosives detection equipment and highly trained security personnel to strengthen our abilities to find dangerous materials and stop dangerous people from boarding aircraft.

TSA has expanded the random use of Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) machines, which are effective against a wide scope of explosives, to screen both passengers and bags. The President's FY 2011 budget requests $60 million to purchase and supply approximately 800 additional portable ETD machines.

Further, the President's budget seeks approximately $20 million in funding to increase the ranks of BDOs by 350, enhancing coverage of lanes and shifts at Category X, I, II, and III airports and expanding coverage to smaller airports. BDOs provide an extra layer of security based on proven behavior observation and analysis techniques to make timely security risk assessments of travelers. They add an additional measure of unpredictability in aviation security, which is an important feature for disrupting terrorists' ability to plan attacks.

TSA also has determined that critical TSA field locations would benefit from enhanced access to operational intelligence information by providing up-to-date guidance and context to TSA officials stationed in the field, as well as local stakeholders. The President's FY 2011 budget requests $7.1 million to expand TSA's Field Intelligence Officer program by 31 officers to enhance classified communications and information sharing. The more relevant information we can provide to our TSOs, the more equipped they will be to detect and prevent a range of threats.

Nearly 950 Advanced Technology X-Ray machines have been deployed to U.S. airports to enhance the screening of carry-on bags. Additional machines will follow this year and include automated detection software to improve their capability. With support provided by this Subcommittee, TSA will approach full operational capability of this explosives detection technology in FY 2010. As we make improvements in detection capabilities for carry-on bags, it will be important to proceed with AIT deployment for passenger screening to avoid a potential shift of vulnerabilities.

The Explosives Detection Systems (EDS) Strategic Plan outlined a process for achieving optimal screening solutions at 250 commercial airports. This number has been increased to 285 to now incorporate smaller airports. By the end of this fiscal year, it is projected that 200 airports will have one or more operational in-line systems, which provide greater efficiency and increased baggage throughput. TSA appreciates the Subcommittee's continuing support for EDS, which has allowed us to proceed aggressively with these multiyear projects and provide greater attention to medium and smaller airports as projects at larger airports are completed.

To further bolster security, DHS has established a new partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Laboratories. The Deputy Secretaries of Homeland Security and Energy are leading the effort to bring the paramount capabilities and critical resources of the DOE National Laboratories to bear on developing advanced technical solutions to key aviation security challenges. This partnership will focus on advancing current technology, assessing system capabilities to determine gaps, and developing emerging technologies to fill those gaps in an efficient and effective manner.

Two years ago, DHS and DOE formed the National Explosive Engineering Sciences Security (NEXESS) Center, a consortium of National Laboratories including Sandia National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to provide an agile and aggressive means to anticipate and understand explosive threats and to develop countermeasures to protect the homeland. The NEXESS Center provides informed scientific analysis for short- to mid-term priority assessments as well as mid- to long-term research and technology development. The Deputy Secretaries of both DHS and DOE are working collaboratively to strengthen these efforts in light of the December 25th attempted attack.

Aviation Law Enforcement

To strengthen the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement, the President's budget requests an additional $85 million to support the costs of increasing the number of FAMs. As a result of threat mitigations put in place following the Northwest Flight 253 incident, FAMS increased coverage of international flights and, as an interim measure, DHS has deployed additional law enforcement officers from across the Department–including the U.S. Secret Service, CBP, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the USCG–to assist FAMs. In January 2010, these highly trained officers participated in an accelerated specialized Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS)-led training program on the unique methods employed to protect and defend an aircraft. This augmentation program allows FAMS to continue the increased international operational tempo while maintaining appropriate domestic flight coverage. With the funding requested for FY 2011, TSA would sustain the higher level of international flight coverage while continuing domestic flight coverage at appropriate levels.

The President's FY 2011 budget also requests $71 million for an additional 275 proprietary explosives detection canine teams for Category X and I airports. TSA's National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program develops, trains, deploys, and certifies explosives detection canine teams to deter and detect the introduction of explosive devices into the transportation system.

International Partnerships

DHS and TSA will continue to work with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security. Much of our success in ensuring that terrorists do not board flights to the United States is dependent on what happens in foreign airports and the commitment of our foreign partners to enhance security. DHS leadership has embarked upon an aggressive international outreach initiative to enhance international aviation security standards and practices – particularly for international flights bound for the United States. To build upon and sustain the vision achieved in these international efforts, the President's FY 2011 budget requests an additional $40 million for TSA to develop and promote enhanced global transportation security processes and structures worldwide and to ensure compliance with international and TSA standards. These funds would provide field and support personnel to manage international programs at 15 existing offices and deploy additional personnel to the Middle East and Africa. TSA plans to add 34 international Transportation Security Specialists, 10 International Industry Representatives, and a 10-person Rapid Response Team. TSA will work proactively with foreign partners by representing TSA in a variety of international and domestic settings, including major transnational aviation-related organizations, regional bodies dealing with transportation security, bilateral cooperative efforts, as well as interagency transportation security efforts.

Because TSA does not conduct screening at international airports, TSA works closely with our foreign partners to ensure international screening standards are followed, particularly for flights bound to the United States. TSA annually conducts approximately 300 airport assessments and inspections at foreign airports using International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and inspections of foreign and U.S. air carriers that fly to the United States using TSA standards. If an airport does not meet these standards, TSA works with the host government to rectify the deficiencies and raise airport security to an acceptable level. Ultimately, it is the foreign government that must work to address these security issues. If non-compliance with international standards continues long-term, TSA may recommend suspension of flight service from these airports to the United States.

TSA inspects all U.S. and foreign air carriers that fly to the United States from each airport that is a last point of departure to ensure compliance with TSA standards and directives. Should air carrier security deficiencies exist, TSA works with the air carrier to raise compliance to an acceptable level.

Watchlists

As one critical layer of defense, DHS conducts pre-departure passenger screening in partnership with the airline industry and foreign governments in order to prevent known or suspected terrorists from boarding a plane bound for the United States or, as appropriate, to identify them for additional screening. TSA uses the No-Fly List and the Selectee List, two important subsets within the Terrorist Screening Database managed by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, to determine who may board, who requires further screening, and who should be referred to appropriate law enforcement personnel. Individuals on the No-Fly List should not receive a boarding pass for a flight to, from, or within the United States. Individuals on the Selectee List must go through additional security measures, including a full-body pat-down and a full physical examination of personal effects.

I want to thank the Subcommittee for the support it has provided over the years for TSA's Secure Flight program. Through Secure Flight, the Department is making an important change to the process of matching passenger identities against the No-Fly List and Selectee List and fulfilling an important recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Previously, responsibility for checking passenger manifests against these lists rested with the air carriers themselves. Under the Secure Flight program, TSA will fully assume this function in 2010. The transition for domestic carriers will be completed this spring and international carriers are targeted for completion by the end of this year. In addition to creating a more consistent matching process for all domestic and international travel to the United States and strengthening the effectiveness of redress in preventing misidentifications, Secure Flight will flag potential watchlist matches and immediately trigger law enforcement notification and coordination. When fully implemented, Secure Flight will screen more than 2.5 million passengers daily.

Air Cargo Screening

In FY 2009, TSA achieved its goals to require the screening of 50 percent of all cargo on passenger aircraft and 100 percent screening of cargo on all narrow body passenger aircraft. This year we are confident that we will achieve 100 percent screening of all cargo on passenger aircraft departing from U.S. airports by the August deadline mandated under the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. To help reach this goal, TSA developed and implemented the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which allows screening of cargo early in the air cargo supply chain by a trusted, vetted, and validated facility. TSA certifies and regulates shippers, indirect air carriers, and other entities to screen cargo prior to its being tendered for transport on passenger aircraft. We are working with the supply chain industry to encourage maximum participation in the CCSP.

TSA air cargo inspectors facilitate air carrier and indirect air carrier implementation of the required security measures and promote compliance through outreach to industry. In FY 2009, TSA's air cargo inspectors completed more than double the number of inspections conducted in the preceding year. With additional resources provided in FY 2010, TSA is increasing inspector ranks by 50 to oversee the implementation of CCSP and validate new program entrants.

TSA also is working with ICAO to develop a “supply chain approach” to securing air cargo on passenger flights, similar to TSA's CCSP. This effort will go a long way toward enhancing the current level of international civil aviation security and in particular to raise the baseline of air cargo security on a global basis.

Finally, TSA is working with other key international partners, on both a bilateral and multilateral basis, to develop common understandings and objectives for the enhancement of air cargo security standards and to ensure each country's air cargo security systems provide comparable levels of security, both across the air cargo supply chain and in international air transport.

Enhancing Security throughout the Transportation System

TSA's vetting responsibilities have grown significantly in recent years, and TSA has responded with the development and implementation of efficient, reliable, and cost-effective antiterrorism screening programs.

Almost 1.4 million workers–longshoremen, truck drivers, and port employees–requiring unescorted access to secure areas of ports have been enrolled in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program since October 2007. In FY 2009, TSA's Hazardous Materials Endorsement Threat Assessment Program (HTAP) conducted threat assessments on 297,473 applicants, a continued increase from the program's inception. Operational costs for the TWIC program and the HTAP program are entirely funded by fee revenue.

TSA conducts Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) deployments in all modes of transportation to detect, deter, defeat, and disrupt potential terrorist or criminal activity. VIPR operations employing multi-disciplinary teams of FAMs, Surface Inspectors, BDOs, and TSOs are planned and implemented through a risk-based approach. In FY 2009, TSA completed the hiring and deployment of 10 additional VIPR teams.

Conclusion

In closing, Mr. Chairman, the President's FY 2011 budget request ensures TSA will have the human and technology resources it needs to take critical next steps to improve aviation and transportation sector security. We are expanding and improving the use of technology, strengthening aviation security protocols with our foreign partners, developing long-term law enforcement capacities, and strengthening a TSA workforce that is highly trained, agile and dedicated to this mission. In all of these action areas to bolster security, we are also mindful of our obligations to safeguard the privacy and rights of travelers, and to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.

Thank you for your continued support to TSA and for the opportunity to discuss the President's budget request for TSA for Fiscal Year 2011. I would be pleased to respond to your questions.

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