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Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
For months, TSA Administrator Pete Neffenger and I have been aware of increased wait times at airports across this country and we have developed an aggressive plan to deal with it and to provide continued aviation security for the American people.
Our task is not only to keep passengers moving but to also, and most importantly, keep passengers safe. In this, we cannot and we will not compromise the security of aviation or the American people. Recent events across the world confirm the continued need for vigilance when it comes to aviation security. In this environment, we will not compromise aviation security on behalf of the people we serve.
Last summer, TSA and I developed a plan to strengthen aviation security in reaction to the Inspector General’s report. It involved less ‘managed inclusion’ and at the time I said that there would be increased wait times at airports.
“In the Fall of 2015, we called on Congress to reverse the trend of downsizing the TSA workforce. Congress acted in response, and as a result in this year’s budget, we saved 1,600 positions in TSA with the help of Congress.
With travel increasing this spring and this summer, TSA and I have now developed an even more aggressive plan to address aviation security and reduce wait times in partnership with airports and airlines. To address the increased wait times and continue to provide aviation security, we have developed a ten-point plan that will keep passengers moving and most importantly, keep passengers safe.
Effective immediately, we are maximizing the use of overtime to our Transportation Security Officers (TSO) to meet the demands at screening check points. Point two, we expedited the hiring of more TSOs. We plan to bring on 768 this year. We expedited the hiring of those to bring them on this summer, projected by June 15th. We now have additional this year: 576. So we are expediting the hiring of additional TSOs.
Point three, we are deploying additional K-9 teams to screen passengers at passenger check points. Point four, the TSA Administrator is authorizing Federal Security Directors at airports to use increased flexibility in providing additional trained TSA staff for screening at passenger checkpoints. Point five, with the partnership and the assistance of the airlines and airports, we’re developing specific plans to alleviate wait times at the nation’s busiest airports experiencing increased wait times.
Number six, again in partnership with the airlines, we’re working to reduce the size and number of carry-on luggage. Again, this is something that the airlines have been very supportive of and we’re working with them to do that. Number seven, we’re working with the airlines for help in non-security tasks at screening locations such as moving bins and the like. Number eight, longer term, TSA and the Science and Technology Directorate of DHS are doubling down on the research development and investment in technology to increase passenger flow and to increase aviation security. We’re doubling down on this investment and doing our best to expedite it. The TSA Administrator has formed the TSA Innovation Taskforce for this purpose.
Number nine, with the airlines and with business and organizations representing businesses, we’re promoting TSA Pre✓®. We’re encouraging air travelers to sign up for TSA Pre✓®. We’re marketing TSA Pre✓®. The airlines are marketing TSA Pre✓® in flight. Through social media, we’re encouraging employer reimbursement of the enrollment fee for TSA. I’m sending a letter today to 100 top businesses in this country, encouraging them to reimburse their employees for enrollment in TSA Pre✓®. We’re already seeing an increased enrollment. A year ago March 2015, approximately 3,600 people signed up for TSA Pre✓®. This March 2016, 7,500 signed up on an average daily basis. In April 2016 that number was 8,500 and just yesterday for the first time, we hit the 10,000 number. Over 10,000 signed up for TSA Pre✓® in a single day- nearly 4 times what it was a year ago.
Last but not least, we’re working with Congress to provide TSA with the additional resources they need to do the job. I submitted a reprogramming request to Congress. To reprogram 34 million for additional overtime and additional expedited hiring for TSOs. I’m pleased that both the House and the Senate just recently approved that reprogramming. We are evaluating actively whether more is necessary in terms of additional funding this year and next.
My message is that the TSA Administrator and I are personally working hard to see that passengers move safely while minimizing the burden on their travel. We want to keep passengers moving but we want to keep passengers safe. That is our primary obligation to the American people.
My other message to the American public is that there will be wait times. There will be wait times this summer as they move through aviation security checkpoints. We encourage people to have the appropriate expectations when they arrive at airports. Contemplate increased wait times as you travel. There will be wait times. But we want the public to know that we’re working hard to alleviate the wait times in partnership with airports and with airlines and to ensure that air travel remains safe and secure in this country.