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  4. Written testimony of TSA for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing titled “Eleven Years After 9/11 Can TSA Evolve To Meet the Next Terrorist Threat?”

Written testimony of Transportation Security Administration Deputy Administrator John Halinski for a House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing titled “Eleven Years After 9/11 Can TSA Evolve To Meet the Next Terrorist Threat?”

Release Date: September 11, 2012

311 Cannon House Office Building

Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks against our Nation.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in the wake of 9/11 to strengthen the security of the Nation’s transportation systems while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce. TSA functions as a critical component of our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts with a highly dedicated workforce working around the clock and across the globe to execute our transportation security responsibilities. Every day we work closely with public and private sector stakeholders in the aviation, rail, mass transit, highway, and pipeline sectors to employ an intelligence-driven, risk-based security approach across all modes of transportation.

The vast nature of the Nation’s transportation systems as well as its impact on our Nation’s economy requires that our personnel continually adjust and adapt security practices and procedures to best address evolving threats and vulnerabilities. Every year, passengers make more than nine billion mass transit trips while over 750 million over-the-road bus trips are completed. Additionally, nearly 800,000 shipments of hazardous materials are transported every day, of which 95 percent are shipped by truck. Within the commercial aviation environment, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) perform security approximately 640 million passenger screenings each year. This volume is roughly equivalent to screening every person residing in the United States, Mexico, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.

TSA’s security measures create a multi-layered system of transportation security that mitigates risk. We continue to evolve our security approach by examining the procedures and technologies we use, how specific security procedures are carried out, and how screening is conducted. As we carry out our mission, TSA is focused on providing the most effective transportation security in the most efficient way possible.

Maintain Focus on Global Strategy

We are committed to maintaining our focus on global strategies in order to mitigate the likelihood of a successful attack that originates from beyond our borders. To accomplish our mission, TSA has a globally-deployed outreach and engagement workforce comprising TSA representatives (TSAR) who coordinate closely with foreign government counterparts and international industry representatives who serve as the direct liaison to regulated foreign airlines. Also, TSA has a cadre of aviation security instructors who focus on capacity development and provide formal training to international counterparts when capacity development and training are deemed a viable solution for vulnerabilities. Through these interactions, TSA is able to synchronize our approach with the entities affected by our security decisions while promoting both international security and commerce.

We believe that good, thoughtful, sensible security by its very nature facilitates lawful travel and legitimate commerce. Tomorrow, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole will meet with leaders from around the world at a High-Level Conference on Aviation Security of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to address, among other things, key principles of air cargo and mail security developed by an ICAO working group in May of this year. These principles recognize that strong, sustainable, and resilient air cargo security is essential and recommend the adoption of the total supply chain approach to security that has already been incorporated by the United States to secure domestic cargo. The principles also emphasize the importance of oversight, quality control, and international cooperation and coordination of security measures for the global air cargo supply chain.

TSA has worked closely with its international and private sector partners to increase the security of air cargo without restricting the movement of goods and products. By December 3, 2012, TSA will require 100 percent physical screening of all air cargo transported on passenger aircraft bound for the United States. This important step not only builds on the current practice of 100 percent screening of identified high-risk international cargo, but also adds TSA’s risk-based, intelligence-driven procedures into the prescreening process by determining appropriate screening protocols on a per-shipment basis. This process requires enhanced screening for any shipment designated as higher risk based on a review of information about the shipper and the shipment itself, which must undergo the most stringent screening protocols prior to transport on both passenger and all-cargo aircraft bound for the United States. In addition, TSA continues to pursue bilateral efforts with appropriate foreign government partners through its National Cargo Security Program (NCSP) recognition program. Under this program, an air carrier can choose to implement the security program of the country from which it is operating once TSA has determined that such programs provide a level of security commensurate with current U.S. air cargo security requirements.

Risk-Based Security Improves Mission Effectiveness

Risk-based screening strengthens security while significantly enhancing the travel experience for passengers whenever possible. By learning more about travelers through information they voluntarily provide, and combining that information with our other layers of security, DHS can focus more resources on higher-risk and unknown passengers. DHS will continue to incorporate random security steps as well as other measures both seen and unseen in order to maintain the safest and most efficient system possible for the traveling public. Since the fall of 2011, TSA has offered modified screening procedures to a variety of low-risk populations including passengers 12 and younger and 75 and older.

In October 2011, TSA launched the TSA Pre✓™ program to build on our intelligence-driven, risk-based initiatives helping TSA move away from a one-size-fits-all model and closer to its goal of providing the most effective security in the most efficient way. To date, more than two million passengers have experienced TSA Pre✓™. TSA Pre✓™ is now available in 23 airports for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways frequent flyers. A total of 35 airports are scheduled to be online by the end of this year. As participating airlines and airports become operationally ready, TSA will announce the implementation of TSA Pre✓™ at additional locations.

TSA Pre✓™ enables TSA to focus our efforts on the passengers we know little about and high-risk passengers, while providing expedited screening and a better experience for those travelers TSA knows the most about. Airports with TSA Pre✓™ provide expedited screening to U.S. citizens flying domestically, who are members of existing U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs (Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI), or eligible airline frequent flyers who have opted in.

TSA continues to take steps to further enhance our layered approach to security through state-of-the-art technologies, better passenger identification techniques and other developments that strengthen our capabilities to keep terrorists off commercial aircraft. However, TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited or modified screening. Airport security checkpoints are only one part of a multi-layered system for aviation security. Other parts, both seen and unseen by the public include analysis of intelligence, explosives detection, canine teams, Federal Air Marshals, and closed-circuit television monitoring. With the tools that exist today, if we can confirm a person’s identity and learn more about them through information they voluntarily provide, and combine that information with our other layers of security, we can expedite the physical screening for many people.

As part of the continued expansion of RBS initiatives, TSA will include flight attendants from U.S.-based airlines and traveling from U.S. airports into the Known Crew Member (KCM) program that already includes pilots. KCM provides positive identity verification of the airline crewmember, enabling expedited screening. TSA anticipates that it may take six to 12 months for the air carriers and their service providers to make the necessary system modifications to incorporate flight attendants into the expedited screening process already in place for U.S. airline pilots and fully develop, test, and implement the program. As of August 2012, KCM has been deployed at 18 airports, with 13 additional sites scheduled to come online by the end of the calendar year.

TSA also recognizes that members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who are trusted to protect the security and values of America with their lives, pose a lower risk to aviation security. In fact, TSA is proud to count many uniformed service members among our employees. At airport checkpoints nationwide, U.S. service personnel in uniform with proper identification, whether traveling on official orders or not, are not required to remove their shoes or boots unless they alarm our technology. Other screening courtesies that we extend to U.S. military personnel traveling in uniform significantly reduce the likelihood that they will receive a pat down or other additional screening. In addition, family members may obtain gate passes to accompany departing troops or meet their loved ones when they come home. TSA also expedites screening for honor flight veterans, and partners with the Department of Defense to expedite screening of wounded warriors. Additionally, as part of our intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security, TSA now offers TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening benefits to active duty service members at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as part of an initial proof of concept.

Workforce Engagement Initiatives

The success of RBS and initiatives like TSA Pre✓™ depend upon people. A dedicated TSA workforce assures the traveling public that they are protected by a multi-layered system of transportation security that mitigates risk. An effective workforce must be properly trained.

We are currently engaged in a transformation of TSA that is designed to increase efficiencies and more prudently allocate resources. An important part of this effort is the creation of the Office of Training and Workforce Engagement (OTWE), which centralizes technical and leadership training, as well as workforce engagement programs that were previously dispersed throughout TSA. Maintaining and enhancing the capabilities of our employees, and particularly our TSOs, is a priority. Both the nature of our work and advances in technology have required our workforce to adapt and develop new, specialized skills as threats continue to evolve. As part of this strategic alignment, OTWE developed and implemented a new TSA training program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, GA in April 2012.

In addition to technical training, ongoing programs support the professional development of TSOs to continually improve their overall effectiveness and efficiency. For example, since last summer TSA has been delivering a tactical communications course for all managers, supervisors, and TSOs. The course, which expands upon the concepts and principles introduced during earlier engagement training, teaches officers how to effectively interact with passengers and co-workers. The course is designed to prepare TSOs for all types of human interactions by giving them tools and techniques to de-escalate difficult situations. At the checkpoint, these skills enable TSOs to more effectively complete the screening process.

We are also expanding supervisory training as we implement the Department of Homeland Security Cornerstone program, a unified approach to the development of essential skills for new and seasoned TSA supervisors. This program includes instructor-led classroom training, mentoring, and ongoing development opportunities. Over the next 18 months all of our Supervisory Transportation Security Officers (STSO) will complete a course on the essentials of supervising screening operations. This training will build upon the basic leadership and technical skills of frontline supervisors, including effective communications, coaching, mentoring, and problem solving, and will enhance technical skills needed for effectively implementing security procedures. One of the key course objectives is to encourage STSOs to take ownership of their role in facilitating and contributing to the development of a responsible and professional workforce by establishing a high standard for performance, accountability, and integrity that their team members will strive to emulate.

Workforce development is further enhanced by the TSA Associates Program, which continues to provide TSA’s frontline workforce the opportunity to receive a TSA Certificate of Achievement in Homeland Security upon the completion of three core courses offered at community colleges across the country. More than 2,500 officers have enrolled since the program’s inception. Today, the program is represented by employees in all 50 States with more than 70 airports and 60 community colleges participating in the program. TSA has also implemented employee development initiatives like the Leaders at Every Level (LEL), through which TSA identifies high-performing employees and fosters commitments to excellence and teamwork. The implementation of a new four-tier performance management program for non-TSOs enables the workforce to actively engage in developing their annual performance goals in collaboration with their supervisors, while promoting two-way communication between employees and their supervisors throughout the performance year. Providing a mechanism to proactively identify opportunities to improve their performance has increased employee morale.

It is not enough to train and engage our workforce – we must hold everyone accountable in the success of our mission. Administrator Pistole, shortly after coming to TSA, established the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to ensure that allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated and that discipline is appropriate and fair across the agency. OPR ensures that our workforce is treated fairly by removing people that do not meet the high standards of integrity that our mission requires.

Efficiencies Improve Organization, Management

Over the past year, TSA has announced several enhancements to its headquarters functions to improve the agency’s overall security posture. For example, to support a more effective means of vetting functions with the operational use of intelligence information, we merged the Office of Intelligence with Secure Flight and the Office of Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing. This change allows TSA to more effectively identify potential threats posed by airline passengers and transportation workers across all vetted populations.

Restructuring efforts have allowed TSA to gain efficiencies with many support functions including training and information technology (IT) management. For example, as discussed above, we have placed all security training programs under a single Assistant Administrator, which eliminated multiple levels of supervision in several offices and reduced processing times and redundant review functions. In addition, by combining IT management activities under a single functional area, TSA has ensured IT strategies are in accordance with the consolidated DHS IT architecture.

In addition, combining the technology deployment and integration groups under the Office of Security Capabilities has improved coordination and deployment of new equipment while eliminating redundant management structures. These changes have enabled TSA to better address recommendations for improvements provided by Congress, the Government Accountability Office, the DHS Inspector General, and our own workforce.

Finally, to improve field coordination, TSA has reduced the number of field regions within the Office of Security Operations (OSO) from 12 to 6 and has developed a scorecard to evaluate operational effectiveness and efficiency at the national, regional, and local levels. OSO has further enhanced its ability to measure effectiveness by formalizing its Presence, Advisements, Communication, and Execution (PACE) program, which tracks performance metrics. The PACE program establishes and measures the level of standardization that exists across airports in areas not traditionally set or measured by other programs. This includes such things as evaluating to what extent TSOs exhibit command presence and how effective their interaction is with passengers, as well as adherence to other Management Directives and Standard Operating Procedures.


Our Nation’s transportation systems continue to face evolving threats. To achieve its mission, TSA will continue to effectively implement an intelligence driven and risk-based security system across all transportation modes while increasing the level of engagement with our workforce to shape them for success and drive operational and management efficiencies across the organization. TSA strives to achieve these goals as it continues to protect the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. We appreciate your continued support as we strive to ensure that our workforce is well-prepared and given the proper tools to meet the challenges of securing our aviation transportation system. Thank you, Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and members of the Subcommittee, for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to answering your questions.

Last Updated: 03/10/2022
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