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Bennie T.
Democrat MS 2

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  • Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016

    by Representative Bennie G. Thompson

    Posted on 2016-06-07

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    THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    I rise in support of H.R. 5338, the Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016.

    Over the past few months, the Transportation Security Administration has been scrutinized and criticized regarding wait times. As the peak travel season began, there were several reports of wait times that exceeded 2 hours. Those lengthy waits caused anxiety and disappointment among travelers. At times, the prolonged wait times caused many passengers to miss their flights.

    In response to this crisis, the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration took a series of actions. The TSA deployed additional K-9 teams to screen passengers at checkpoints; it intensified its efforts to promote participation in the PreCheck program; it partnered more closely with airlines and airports; and it increased research and development efforts for technologies that will improve screening. This bill codifies many of those actions. However, it does not encompass [[Page H3469]] the entirety of the Department's efforts to address the wait times crisis.

    DHS Secretary Johnson also requested that $34 million in appropriations be reprogrammed from other TSA accounts to help cover the costs for overtime, converting part-time workers to full-time, and expediting the hiring of new transportation security officers. DHS' request was approved. Just 2 weeks after the reprogramming, Secretary Johnson requested an additional infusion of cash to TSA operations of $28 million. That reprogramming request is pending. The infusion of $34 million in additional resources into TSA security operations has had a tremendous impact on wait times at the Nation's airports. In fact, during the Memorial Day weekend, most airports reported wait times of less than 30 minutes during peak time.

    If the TSA is to maintain the operational gains that have been realized in recent weeks and keep wait times down, it will require Congress' stepping up and providing resources. Even though the measures within this bill will codify much of what the TSA and the DHS are already doing to address the issue, the only way to achieve long-term, measurable success is by giving the TSA the resources it needs on an ongoing basis.

    The TSA's current staffing is out of step with its own projection for volumes in fiscal year 2016. As you can see from the poster, the TSA's staffing in fiscal year 2016 was 42,525 TSOs, which is nearly 2,500 fewer frontline staff than in fiscal year 2011. The TSA is expected to screen nearly 100 million more passengers in FY 2016, with about 2,500 fewer staff.

    That is why I joined with Representative DeFazio and Representative Dold in introducing H.R. 5340, the FASTER Act, which is bipartisan legislation that directs the money that is collected from the flying public through the September 11 Security Fee to actually be used to secure the Nation's commercial aviation system. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the funds collected, which has totaled $12.6 billion over 10 years, is being diverted to offset the Federal budget. I urge Members to support H.R. 5340, the FASTER Act.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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