Last week, from his seat as chairman of the US House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, US Representative Carlos JimenezR-Fla., held a hearing on “the role of technology in aviation security and Transportation Security Administration’(TSA’s) ability to fulfill its mission of securing air travel.”
The South Florida Republican office emphasized the importance of the issue.
“The Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security maintains oversight of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard to improve the security of U.S. transportation systems, passengers, cargo, airports, and ports, and to ensure the safety of our maritime borders,” the office noted of Gimenez.
The subcommittee heard from Austin Gould, TSA’s Assistant Administrator for Requirements and Capabilities Analysis and Mario WilsonTSA Assistant Administrator of Acquisition Program Management. Tina Vaughan Shermandirector of homeland security and justice for the US Government Accountability Officealso addressed the subcommittee.
“One of our primary concerns is the slow timeline for TSA’s introduction of new technology to the passenger screening process and what this subcommittee can do to accelerate the long timelines outlined by the agency,” Gimenez said in his opening remarks. “Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress mandated TSA to protect the nation’s commercial aviation sector.
“TSA cannot accomplish this mission without the technology systems it has in place at airports across the country. These systems allow Transport security officers (TSO) and other TSA personnel to screen for weapons, explosives and other dangerous items that threaten passenger safety,” he added. “Furthermore, TSA’s technology systems make it easier to verify the identity of passengers and ensure that known or suspected terrorists and other dangerous criminals do not board commercial flights.” These functions are essential for TSA to carry out its statutory mission.
“The new systems that TSA is bringing online make the agency more efficient in accomplishing its mission by reducing the opportunity for human error and allowing transit operators to focus more on interacting with passengers to resolve pressing issues,” continued Gimenez. . “However, I am concerned that TSA has not appropriately prioritized the development and implementation of new technology systems within its passenger screening process.”
“Earlier this year, Administrator David Pekoske informed this subcommittee that the agency anticipates that it will fully integrate the new computed tomography, or CT, machines used to screen carry-on baggage and second-generation Credential Authentication Technology, or CAT-2, systems used to verify the identity of fiscal travelers years 2042 and 2049 respectively,” he said. “These timeframes mean it will take the agency over 20 years to adopt the technologies it needs today.” Frankly, it’s too slow. I am concerned that TSA has not adequately prioritized expediting this schedule.”
Gimenez said he has questions and concerns about the TSA’s budget requests and insisted the agency is “forgoing opportunities to invest in other technologies such as ‘detection at range'” that would further enhance TSA’s capabilities at passenger checkpoints and reduce the need for screening procedures such as physical examinations. declines that some consider invasive,” before adding “there are two ways we can address these issues: funding and focus.”
The South Florida Republican applauded recent action by Congress to offer the TSA more funding to use new technology.
“On the funding front, I was pleased that the House-passed Homeland Security appropriations bill included a $35 million increase over TSA’s original budget request to fund the acquisition of new CT machines,” Gimenez said. “In our previous hearing with Administrator Pekoske, we discussed the possibility of redirecting the 9/11 security fee back to the TSA. The fee, which is $5.60 for each air passenger per trip, is intended to fund TSA operations at airports. However, over $1 billion in fees collected are currently diverted to the Treasury Department to pay unrelated federal debt.
“I believe it is time to revisit fee diversion and discuss ways in which ending it would help the agency develop and deploy new technologies more quickly.” In terms of focus, I believe TSA needs to give more priority to its new technology systems. Anyone can do anything on an unlimited budget, but even within a limited budget, I still believe TSA can do more to get these new technologies online faster,” he added. “By addressing this critical issue, we can ultimately ensure that American air travelers are safer and that American citizens get a good return on their security fee.”
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