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Rep. Lewis Helps Lead New Push to Reduce TSA Delays and Improve Efficiency and Increase Workforce

June 9, 2016
Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC]  – Rep. John Lewis (GA-05), along with House Oversight Subcommittee on Transportation Ranking Member Tammy Duckworth (IL-08) and Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and Patrick Murphy (FL-18), led 70 House Democrats in a push to permanently reduce excessively-long Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening lines passengers have been forced to endure at airports around the country.

In a letter sent to senior Homeland Security Appropriators yesterday, the Members called for lifting an arbitrary and illogical statutory cap on the number of screeners TSA may employ that can cause needless delays for the flying public.  The Members also urged several other substantive reforms and for increased resources to help TSA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reduce passenger delays while maintaining a secure and efficient screening process.

Rep. Lewis also led Members of Georgia’s Congressional Delegation in a letter to TSA last month asking that at least 100 more Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) be sent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

“I am proud to join my colleagues in this important effort,” said Rep. Lewis.  “In Georgia, we are very proud to have both the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta and the TSA Academy in Glynn County.  The long lines we have seen recently have been frustrating for everyone who flies through Hartsfield-Jackson.  I am grateful for the way TSA has worked with the Airport and airlines to find new ways to strike the balance between efficiency and safety.  We must do all we can to ensure that TSA has the resources it needs to train and retain officers and to carry out its mission to protect the flying public.”

In light of recent high-profile instances of passengers waiting for hours in slow-moving screening lines, often missing flights, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA made several immediate—but temporary—improvements to address delays.  In addition to urging the lifting of the needless screener cap, the letter also calls for the House Appropriators to include additional resources and authorities to help DHS and TSA to permanently address screening delays at security checkpoints.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Chairman Carter and Ranking Member Roybal-Allard:

We write on behalf of American travelers who are frustrated and angry because of excessive delays at security screening checkpoints in airports throughout the country.  We are concerned at the recent high-profile instances of multiple hour wait times at major airports.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must have the authority and resources to effectively protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.

While we support DHS’ immediate corrective actions to decrease wait times, these steps are only temporary solutions.  In recent years, the size of the TSA workforce has declined by approximately 12 percent, while the number of domestic air travelers has increased by a similar percentage.  A range of key stakeholders—including major airports, industry groups and organized labor—have called for increased TSA staffing levels.

Accordingly, as the Subcommittee develops the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, we strongly urge you to ensure that TSA can effectively and efficiently implement a risk-based aviation security screening process that optimizes deployment of agency resources to match seasonal fluctuations in travel volume.  Specifically, we believe the FY 17 DHS appropriations bill should:

  • Eliminate arbitrary restrictions that cap the size of TSA’s Transportation Security Officer (TSO) workforce without regard to the continually evolving and growing range of terrorist threats targeting the traveling public or the level of traveler demand;
  • Ensure TSA possesses necessary flexibility to deploy TSO personnel in an agile and responsive manner that matches a continually changing threat environment and fluctuating traveler volumes based on various factors;
  • Require TSA to analyze and enhance its TSO staffing allocation model to be more flexible and responsive to variations in travel volume;
  • Provide TSA with necessary resources to recruit, retain and continually train a talented TSO workforce that is of sufficient quantity and quality to implement the improved staffing allocation model; and          
  • Ensure TSA is provided robust funding to deploy advanced personnel and proven detection technology, particularly K-9 teams, in an agile manner to airports experiencing elevated travel volumes and higher security threat assessments.

Recognizing that the DHS appropriations bill must address a range of pressing homeland security priorities, we strongly encourage the Subcommittee provide funding for TSA operations at a level commensurate with the agency’s growing workload in preventing terrorist plots targeting our aviation system.  In addition, we strongly believe aviation security must never be compromised by irrational or unjustified congressional caps on the number of transportation security officers the agency may employ to best protect American travelers.

Thank you for your attention to these requests.  TSA’s counterterror mission is, and must always remain, the agency’s highest priority.  Fortunately, the goals of enhanced security and more efficient processing are not mutually exclusive objectives.  We look forward to working with you to support the important work that tens of thousands of Transportation Security Officers do every day to keep the American people safe.