Thank you, Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee for the opportunity to submit this written statement for the record about the ways the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supports our military personnel in the employment process in addition to facilitating travel for soldiers and their families throughout the United States.
TSA is proud to count many uniformed service members among our employees. Over 10,000 veterans – or approximately 20% of the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) workforce – serve on TSA’s front line securing our Nation’s transportation sector. TSA has endeavored to ensure that our policies and procedures are consistent with the law, and structured to promote the substantive rights to which veterans’ are specifically entitled under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Employment Protection for Service Members
TSA is authorized under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) to set the qualifications, conditions and standards of employment for TSOs, notwithstanding any other provision of law. ATSA, §111(d), 49 U.S.C. §44935, note. If enacted, H.R. 3670 would amend §111(d) of ATSA to expressly state that the TSA Administrator would be required to comply with USERRA. Specifically, if amended, §111(d) of ATSA would read as follows (new text added by H.R. 3670 is in bold font):
(1) GENERAL AUTHORITY- Except as provided in paragraph (2), and notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security may employ, appoint, discipline, terminate, and fix the compensation, terms, and conditions of employment of Federal service for such a number of individuals as the Under Secretary determines to be necessary to carry out the screening functions of the Under Secretary under section 44901 of title 49, United States Code. The Under Secretary shall establish levels of compensation and other benefits for individuals so employed.
(2) UNIFORMED SERVICES EMPLOYMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS ACT- In carrying out the functions authorized under paragraph (1), the Under Secretary shall be subject to the provisions set forth in chapter 43 of title 38, United States Code.
TSA’s policies for veterans afford TSOs the same substantive rights enumerated in H.R. 3670. In 2006, TSA established policies and procedures for employment and reemployment of members of the uniformed service consistent with the provisions of USERRA (38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-4344) in the form of TSA Management Directive 1100.30-17, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment, which is supplemented by a more detailed Handbook and available to all TSA employees. The policy, updated and expanded in 2009, addresses: pre-deployment procedures for both the employee and management; leave and other benefits afforded to service members; and the responsibilities of employees, human resources specialists and supervisors/managers regarding reemployment rights of service members. The Handbook also addresses the special considerations that apply to returning employees who suffer a service-connected disability including reassignment to another position for which the employee qualifies if the employee can no longer perform the essential functions of the position held prior to his or her military service.
Through the application of this policy, TSA demonstrates its commitment to treating both TSO and non-TSO uniformed service employees with equal respect. TSOs who believe their USERRA rights have been violated may contact the Department of Labor (DOL) for assistance and TSA works closely with DOL to address any disputes that arise. TSA has worked diligently to educate supervisors and human resources specialists policies related to uniformed services employment and reemployment while establishing relationships with the interagency partners. As a result, most issues are resolved before they reach the DOL complaint stage. Based upon the fact that TSA has these policies in place, we believe that H.R. 3670 is unnecessary.
Facilitating Travel through Risk-Based Security Measures
In addition to supporting our veteran employees by protecting their USERRA rights, TSA is also committed to expediting the screening process for our uniformed service members. U.S. service members are entrusted with the responsibility to protect our citizens with their lives. TSA recognizes that these members pose very little risk to security and has developed procedures at our security checkpoints to allow military personnel to move safely and expeditiously through our nation’s airports.
- Military personnel traveling in uniform with a valid military ID are not required to remove their footwear unless it alarms the walk through metal detector at the checkpoint while family members who want to accompany a deployed military service member to the boarding gate, or greet them returning from deployment at the arrival gate, may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport after being properly screened.
- To facilitate the screening of injured and wounded service members, TSA has partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a process to inform us when our injured military heroes are traveling through our Nation's airports.
- TSA will soon begin incorporating active duty U.S. Armed Forces members with a valid Common Access Card, traveling out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport into the TSA Pre✓™. If TSA is able to verify the service member is in good standing with the Department of Defense, they will receive TSA Pre✓™ screening benefits, such as no longer removing their shoes or light jacket and allowing them to keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant bag in a carry-on. Building on its initial success, TSA envisions expanding TSA Pre✓™ benefits to active duty service members at additional participating airports in the coming months.
Of course, nothing will guarantee that a passenger receives expedited screening. To remain effective, TSA must retain the ability to employ random and unpredictable security measures at any point in the process. TSA’s goal at all times is to maximize transportation security to stay ahead of evolving terrorist threats while protecting privacy and facilitating the flow of legitimate commerce.
This Subcommittee plays a vital role in advancing legislation that assists our Nation’s military personnel and enables us to repay the debt of gratitude owed to those who defend the rights and liberties enjoyed by all Americans. The Subcommittee’s continued vigilance on behalf of veterans ensures that those who nobly defend our Nation are rewarded for their service. Thank you for the opportunity to submit this written statement to discuss how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supports our military personnel in the employment process in addition to facilitating travel for soldiers and their families throughout the United States.